Santa Elena manuscript with new research, insights in progress

2/25/20 – At the close of her special lecture at the Santa Elena History Center yesterday, Dr. Karen Paar, of Mars Hill University, signed an agreement to write a book-length manuscript on the significant story of Santa Elena from the perspective of the settlers who lived at America’s first capital in the 16th century.

Building on her research over the past 20 years, Dr. Paar will consult both primary and secondary resources to produce a cohesive and accurate portrayal of this history. She one of a few translators of 16th century Spanish and has extensively studied the Archives of the Indies.

“The goal of this book is to provide a scholarly sound, but readable, account of the history of Santa Elena and its significance for understanding the region’s history,” says Dr. Paar.
“Furthermore, I hope this book will be the launching point for further historical research and that archaeologists will find it helpful as they continue investigation into the Charlesfort-Santa Elena site on Parris Island.”

The Santa Elena Foundation recognizes great value in the work of Dr. Paar and this project, which will meet all three key elements of its mission — to discover, promote, and preserve the first century of American history through the lens of Santa Elena. The manuscript will shed new light on three important perspectives of the history– the role of conquest in America’s development, the role of women in colonization, and the depth of engagement and disruption of the indigenous communities in this land.

“Multi-national colonization is an important part of the history of this nation,” states Dr. Paar.

“And modern-day discovery of America’s first century is changing what we know about our history, how we can learn from it, and what it means to be an American,” agrees Megan Morris, Director of Santa Elena Foundation. “Dr. Paar’s research and writing parallels multiple current efforts to uncover Santa Elena and the much larger context it leads us to understand.”

The timeline for the completion of the manuscript is by May 2021, when it will then be published and disseminated.


Dr. Karen Paar is an archivist, historian, and among a handful of scholars capable of reading archaic paleography from the Columbus era. Dr. Paar grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, attended Oberlin College in Ohio, and completed a Ph.D. in Latin American History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Paar wrote her dissertation on the Santa Elena colony. As Research Assistant Professor at the Institute for Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina, Dr. Paar continued her grant-funded research on Santa Elena. Dr. Paar returned to North Carolina and attended library school at North Carolina Central University while working at the North Carolina State University Libraries. Karen currently lives in western North Carolina and is the Director of the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies and Archivist of the Southern Appalachian Archives at Mars Hill University. Dr. Paar regularly lectures in support of the University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and continues her research on Santa Elena from primary source period archives on the Iberian Peninsula which will be transitioned into a book in 2021.