Thomas Cahill, “a multilingual scholar who wrote a surprise 1995 bestseller demonstrating to the world how a small band of Irish monks collected and protected the jewels of Western civilization after the fall of the Western Roman Empire,” died October 18, the New York Times reported. He was 82. Although How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe was not Cahill’s first book, it “immediately established his reputation as one of the country’s great writers of popular history.”

Early in his career, Cahill taught at several institutions in the New York area, including Queens College and Seton Hall University. He and his wife, Susan Cahill, opened a mail-order book company, and he worked as the advertising director at the New York Review of Books.

In 1990, he became director of religious publishing at Doubleday. He began pitching the Hinges of History series and How the Irish Saved Civilization around the same time. At a sales conference, he mentioned the idea to Talese, who immediately bought the series. It would occupy the remainder of his career, though Cahill took time off in 2002 to publish a short biography of Pope John XXIII as well as A Saint on Death Row: The Story of Dominique Green (2009).