Posts Tagged ‘Historians’

PhD Diary: Justin Dolan Stover, Trinity College Dublin

21 December 2009

Contributed by Justin Dolan Stover

Do you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? Both.   If it were only a vocation the lack of funding and stability wouldn’t bother me.  If it were only a job I couldn’t sustain my motivation to work.  Having aspects of both keeps me driven and satisfied.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD? Being an academic historian is the most difficult profession I could think of; a PhD was the first step.

Justin’s diary: I have several times over the past calendar month attempted to clear my mind, sit and write a diary entry which would illustrate the experiences of an American studying in Ireland.  Numerous mental obstacles emerged, however, which prevented me from doing so.  Allow me to mention just one:  the annual experience of registering with immigration.  Last year my wife and I queued for many hours, waiting with others in the cold and rain, to present ourselves, our documents and €150 each, to legally remain in Ireland.  The ordeal lasted 13 hours.  This year we shaved that down to 7 hours.  I rose at 4am to join the queue and secure our place.  Arriving at Burgh Quay at 4.30am, I was eighth in line.  My wife joined me when the offices opened at 9am as she is four months pregnant and in need of a toilet every 45 minutes or so. Read more

PhD Diary: Léan Ní Chléirigh

16 November 2009

Contributed by Léan Ní Chléirigh of Trinity College Dublin

booksDo you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? I’m not sure it’s either, I love it but to call it a vocation implies that somehow my PhD will make a difference and unless your a medieval ethnographer (and maybe even if you are) it won’t.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD? I genuinely can’t remember, I thought I might be good at it…

Léan’s diary: I have just started my fourth year of research and have had to take stock of what I have done with the last three years of my life, which took about five minutes. I am one of those poor souls whose PhD morphed dramatically in the beginning of third year and as a result some of my first two years’ work became redundant and I was left with only 15,000 words to my name. I know now that it was for the best but I cried for a month when it happened (Oversharing? Anyone who tells you they haven’t cried over their PhD is lying or has no soul). Read more

PhD Diary: Eamon Darcy

19 October 2009

Contributed by Eamon Darcy of Trinity College Dublin

booksDo you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? It starts as a hobby that slowly consumes one’s life. The last year of my research has been incredibly strange. I left a pub one night as I had finally broken through a cloud of theory that overshadowed the last two chapters of my thesis. The jeers of “it must be love love love” still ring in my ears.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD? Money, fame, rock and roll. Need I go on?

Eamon’s Diary: Setting: Graduate Studies Office, after four years of solid research and writing. The time had finally come – submission. “You’ll receive a letter in due course detailing …”, I couldn’t focus, didn’t care, didn’t want to know. Read more

PhD Diary: Laura Kelly

21 September 2009

Contributed by Laura Kelly, NUI Galway.

booksDo you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? Vocation, definitely. Not wanting to sound like a complete nerd, but it’s too enjoyable to be classed as a job.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD: It seemed like a fun thing to do and the natural next step after my masters.

Laura’s Diary: Being in the second year of my PhD, I haven’t yet reached the scary, panic-ridden stages of third year which I am told await me. In first year, I felt like I was trying to find my feet; looking at the literature and doing some research while tentatively trying to network with people at conferences. Second year is a strange in-between stage: on one hand, you feel more confident about your work as chapters begin to take shape, but on the other, there is a constant fear of “am I doing enough?” combined with the regular self-imposed guilt-trips when you spend an hour on Facebook that could possibly have been spent writing ground-breaking new scholarship…or not.

A typical week is difficult to surmise and this is what makes doing a PhD very different to a job. Read More

The Good Life at the Dáil

25 August 2009

Contributed by John Johnston-Kehoe

Dail library

“Historians have a good life because you never really retire. You just switch workplaces.” So commented Richard A. Baker following his retirement last week after thirty-four years at the United States Senate Historical Office. Baker served as one of a team of historians that function as “the institutional memory of the assembly”, fielding queries and generating publications.

This autumn in Dublin some historian will switch workplace to the elegant Library of Leinster House, as the inaugural Oireachtas Parliamentary Fellow. The Fellowship was announced earlier this year as part of the programme to mark the 90th anniversary of the first sitting of Dáil Éireann, and appointments will be made annually up to the 100th anniversary in 2019. A Board chaired by Ceann Comhairle, John O’Donoghue TD, that also includes includes Dr Garret Fitzgerald and Prof John Horgan will oversee the Fellowship. 

How good a life can a Dáil historian look forward to? Read more

History in the Bust to Boom and Boom to Bust

25 June 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Scrooge McDuckA friend from the further left of the political spectrum once dismissed all academic conferences, seminars, symposia and any other gathering you might care to name, as ‘a bunch of people sitting around a room talking, but doing nothing’. And, playing devil’s advocate, maybe he had a point. Is it really worth paying fees for a bunch of academics to sit around researching and writing papers and books that only they will ever read, while (begrudgingly) doing a bit of teaching on the side?

The short answer is yes, yes it is; but let me rewind a bit first, to what got me started on this discussion. Towards the end of Olivia O’Leary’s recent BBC Radio 4 documentary ‘Ireland: From Boom to Bust’ – an interesting if slightly less than satisfactory piece put together with the help of an odd selection of talking heads (Frank McDonald, Claire Kilroy, Richard Corrigan, some suburban house-owners and a Drogheda taxi-driver) – we are introduced to James Mooney, a 23-year-old quantity surveyor who recently emigrated to London for work. In the midst of recounting his thoroughly modern tale of returning home every five weeks or so, Mooney offered a recollection of his college years: ‘We had lecturers telling us that if we stuck out the course … we’d be well on our way to being millionaires by the time we were 30, 35. You know? As a lecturer he’s probably on a hundred grand, you know what I mean? For doing fifteen hours of work, lecturing a week.  Read More

Simon Schama at the Dublin Writer’s Festival

4 June 2009

By Lisa-Marie Griffith

Simon SchamaLast night I spent the evening in the company of Simon Schama, Professor of History and History of Art at Columbia University. Admittedly I wasn’t on my own and as a lowly blog writer and unpaid historian I had to share Professor Schama with 383 Dubliners who had turned up as part of the Dublin Writer’s Festival. Not surprising, perhaps: Shama has written fourteen books on history and history of art and has hosted 3 BBC history series, including the Emmy winning Power of Art. His most recent publication, and the book he had been invited to speak on, is American Future.His presence at the festival was interesting for two reasons. Schama joined a line-up that included world renowned writers of poetry, fiction and non-fiction and his inclusion at the festival proves that history writing has become an accepted facet of the literary genre. Who better to represent the history field than Simon Shama. But is he a model historian and a figure head we would like to represent the industry? On TV I have found Schama clear, passionate and to be honest more likeable than his Channel 4 rival David Starkey. While a History of Britain is not without its flaws the series and follow-up books are clear, intelligent and most importantly accessible. I have to admit though that I arrived to hear his talk in a cynical frame of mind expecting not to like him but left with two signed copies of his book under my arm. What then was my problem with Schama and why have I changed my mind?

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Colonel E.D. Doyle (1919-2009)

4 June 2009

Professor Eunan O’Halpin of Trinity College Dublin has kindly allowed us to reproduce his memorial to Colonel E.D. Doyle who passed away last week.

Ned Doyle was the first Research Associate in the Centre for Contemporary Irish History in 2003. He gave freely of his vast experience, knowledge and insight, not only of military affairs but of Irish life, during and after the weekly seminars. He did this in the most self-effacing way, and it was sometimes hard to get him to talk about his own experiences, as opposed to events of which he was an observer. In 2006 he gave a brilliant presentation on aspects of signals traffic during the Second World War from an Irish perspective: I particularly recall his use of a morse trainer key to show just how individual operators developed their own distinctive ‘hand’. In the same year, he made a pithy and timely comment during a witness seminar involving relatives of 1916 veterans (his father had fought in Dublin), cutting into a rather inconsequential tour de table on the justification or otherwise of rebellion by saying: ‘At some point you had to fight to get them out’. This drew unprecedented applause and got us off the ‘what ifs’. Despite intermittent health problems, he attended many of the seminars in 2008/9 and when asked he always had something of value to say.

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One more reason for studying history

31 May 2009

By Juliana Adelman

8515Online_sex_resizedI came across a very small paragraph on page 13 of the Observer today which should be carefully considered by leaving cert takers.  According to Cherwell, the University of Oxford’s student magazine, history students are the most sexually active of all.  And lest this concern parents whose children are currently studying history with how they might be frittering away their time it turns out that good grades are also correlated with high sexual activity.  This leads to all sorts of interesting questions, not least of which is the real possibility that history students (and high achievers) are more likely to exaggerate their sexual activity than other types of students.   To what use will future historians put this ‘scientific’ data?  The sex survey is now routine, particularly on college campuses.  Nevermind the Kinsey report, a future researcher will have a plethora of data on sexual activities and attitudes.  One typical aspect of sex surveys is an interest in finding new ways of categorising people.  That’s why Cherwell’s report even caught my eye, instead of comparing by the usual categories of age and gender, they used their subject of study.  This, of course, produced more interesting headlines.  The Observer: ‘Why it can pay to have a firm grasp of history.’  Will this have a positive impact on uptake in history courses?  I wouldn’t be too surprised.

The Googlopoly and You

30 May 2009

By Juliana Adelman

google booksEven if you are not a user of Google Book Search, you cannot afford to ignore its existence.  If you are a published author Google may already have scanned your book(s) and may be allowing people to search their full text via the web.  And of course surrounding it with ads based on the content.  If your book isn’t up yet, just wait a while.  They are scanning thousands of volumes every single day.  In some ways Google Book Search could be, and already is, a great boon to historical research.  For books that are scanned you can search them in ways not previously possible, finding needle after needle in the printed haystack.  But authors and publishers are concerned about the impact on the publishing industry and on copyright, librarians are waiting for the bad news on the price of yet another subscription search engine and historians have been critical of the errors already being propagated.  Read More