Monthly Archives: April 2015

To Students Seeking the Ph.D. in History

When at my advanced age one turns nostalgic it is time to beware. “Never look back” is an appropriate motto for the aged.   It is an utterly inappropriate slogan for the historian. In any case, I’m about to look back at aspects of the profession of historian as I have observed it for over three quarters of a century.

This little essay is targeted at students thinking about finally entering a doctoral program in history, at those already deeply involved in one, and the smaller number who are polishing up the very last draft of their dissertation. I am not interested, here, in suggesting changes in the Fields that are currently in use all over the American graduate landscape. Nor am I concerned with reform of The System. One reason is I have no idea what the Fields and Graduation Requirements actually are from place to place, although it would indeed be an interesting detour to ascertain, count, generalize, and recommend changes in the history doctorate coast to coast, public and private, small to large.

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Review of Little Ethiopia of the Pacific Northwest (New Brunswick, N.J., Transaction Press, 2013)

Often a book will be idly described as “timely” on one thin ground or another. This book by Joseph W. Scott and Solomon A. Getahun on Ethiopians who migrated from their home country in Northern Africa and settled in Seattle fits the needs of all who are focusing on immigration policy at this moment and wish they knew a whole lot more about those who came here voluntarily and involuntarily.

Little Ethiopia is a detailed analysis of how the elite of Ethiopia reacted to Communist control of their North African country after the 1974 Revolution; how they fled (chiefly) to Sudan; how they got selected there as immigrants to the United States; how they settled in Seattle and hated, endured, or succeeded in Life there; and how after soul searching, some returned to the homeland where maybe the old ways would again prevail.

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An Intimate and Accurate Method of Communicating with the Bed-Ridden Speech-Impaired

Few if any know how physicians, nurses, and attendants go about communicating with stroke victims and others who have lost the ability to speak, are bed-ridden, and may be severely restricted in their movements. Perhaps they have a standard routine of asking question after question in the hope of accidentally hitting on a subject currently of deep interest to the patient. A nod, head shake, or some other indication of “yes” or “no” is probably indicated by the person asking the question. Is this the best we can do?

For many years I have thought that there is a relatively sophisticated way of establishing good communication with all but the totally immobile. For lack of a better name, I’ll term it “The Bornet Method.” It involves use of the International Morse Code by the patient and ordinary speech or writing by the questioner. There are many reasons why this is a sound method of communicating even the most sophisticated and personal ideas.

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