Professor Julia Crick
Professor of Palaeography
& Manuscript Studies
Director of the Centre for Late Antique
& Medieval Studies
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
I have been interested in handwritten materials since I was a child. At the age of 14 I learned from a careers advisor I that could put this fascination to practical use by becoming an archivist. I followed this plan until shortly before I graduated when one of my lecturers told me he would only write me references for an archives course if I applied for postgraduate study. I owe a huge amount to him and to another lecturer who spotted and encouraged my interest when I was an undergraduate and eventually supervised my research.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
Palaeography is a discipline utterly fundamental to the study of cultures which use the handwritten word. In Western Europe before the age of print all texts were communicated through manuscript, and thus a great proportion of what we know about the history, literature and language of pre-modern cultures. Palaeography is therefore important, and it is immensely rewarding. I find it also hugely enjoyable to use visual as well as intellectual judgement in an academic discipline.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
Parent of three children (including twins).
Award of a major AHRC Grant in 2014.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
As a student in the 1980s I was working in medieval history, a field in which women had been prominent for some time. I was taught by women (all junior, it should be said) as well as men, I heard women as well as men give papers, and of course I read work written by women, including the research published by women of earlier generations. Subsequently, some of the women I knew, all mothers as it happens, were promoted to chairs in elite universities and held positions of high prominence in the profession. One of them is Professor Dame Jinty Nelson of King’s.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
Sometimes, especially after having children, the prospects within my own institution looked bleak; thankfully I had an academic support network whose members valued my research and continued to comment on my work at draft stage. One former Head of Department was a particularly staunch friend and sympathetic colleague. A major break came with the award of a research fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust, which created the opportunity to bring a new project to fruition.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable / rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
Only a few elite universities in the world support research into palaeography and yet without the discipline we would lose the capacity to study new texts and to renew our perception of familiar ones. It is a great privilege to have the job of advocating the discipline, and of training a new generation in this important skill. There are many discoveries to be made and a great deal of work to be done.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
We have three children of secondary-school age and my husband is a professor at a university outside London so we all have to make compromises. We always make some family time at weekends. We always have a summer holiday entirely free of work (no email, no work-related reading).
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Don't give up. Don’t be in a hurry. Celebrate the success of others. Take opportunities when they come. Keep an open mind. Be selective. Follow your research interests.