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University Theses in Russian, Soviet and East European Studies 1907-2006: A Centennial Bibliography of Research in the British Isles.

University Theses in Russian, Soviet and East European Studies 1907-2006: A Centennial Bibliography of Research in the British Isles. Compiled and ed. by GREGORY WALKER and J. S. G. SIMMONS. (MHRA Bibliographies, 3) London: Modern Humanities Research Association. 2008. xv+239 pp. 30 [pounds sterling]. ISBN 978-0-947623-80-7.

This volume is a fascinating work in all kinds of ways. All scholars and researchers in the field are indebted to the labours of the compilers, Gregory Walker and the late John Simmons, for providing what will be an invaluable research aid.

This work does more or less exactly what it says on the tin, in that it is a bibliography (though not an entirely complete one, for reasons that will be explained) of all university theses completed in the UK and Ireland since 1907, the first being an Oxford B.Litt. of 1907, written by T. P. Themelis and entitled 'The Relation of the Eastern Church to the Western Churches from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century'. After a detailed and very helpful set of preliminaries, the main body of the work consists of a listing of 3317 thesis titles, subdivided into thirty-two categories, and followed by two indispensable indexes, one of the authors of the theses, the other of the topics covered. Geographically the bibliography covers Russia, the whole area of the former USSR, and that of the formerly Communist states of Eastern Europe except the GDR, the exclusion of which is not explained. It is, as far as Walker can establish, and speaking chronologically, 'the longest thesis bibliography produced for any sector of area studies' (p. viii).

This is not an entirely new work, in that it builds on Simmons's original list first published more than forty years ago, and which has since been regularly updated either in Oxford Slavonic Papers or, more recently (2004), the Slavonic and East European Review. However, this centennial edition does not merely seek to reproduce previous lists and bring them up to date, but attempts a revision and rationalization of previous work. Despite this, Walker modestly notes, the present list is probably not complete. He comments with nice understatement: 'Universities' procedures for the recording, deposit, cataloguing and reporting of their own theses have not always been--nor are they always now--either prompt or rigorous' (p. vii). Moreover, some titles have been altered with respect to previous versions 'because the title of the thesis as catalogued differs-sometimes by a few words, sometimes entirely--from that originally listed' (p. xi). Again this can be ascribed to sloppy record-keeping by universities! Another problem for the compilers has been the quite different status ascribed to Master's degrees in different institutions.

The very existence of this list, then, will be of invaluable benefit to future researchers, particularly those beginning postgraduate degrees and their supervisors. The thirty-two categories for the entries are, on the whole, fairly standard subheadings (Archaeology', 'Economics', 'History', 'Literature', and so on), although there are one or two irritants in the choices. Why is Cinema merely a subset of Media rather than an entry on its own? It was curiously depressing to find 'Logistics' (coupled with 'Transport') as a section heading. The actual titles of the theses range from the very mainstream and straightforward ('Eduard Limonov: A Critical Study'; 'The Poetry of Mariia Shkapskaia, 1903-1925') to the much more specialized, and esoteric ('Formal and Informal Relations: Comparative Case Studies of the Privatisation of Russian and British Railway Repair Plants'; 'Implementation of a Slovene Language-Based Free-Text Retrieval System'; 'Civil Service Careers in Small and Large States: The Cases of Estonia and the United Kingdom'--the list of this latter type would be very long and very interesting!).

Indeed, in surveying the vast array of subjects which have occupied students for the countless thousands of hours devoted to the completion of theses over the last hundred years one can only agree with the sentiments of Walker when he states that the principal purpose of this work was 'to guide the academics and students of today to the extraordinary range and depth of their predecessors' work' (p. viii). Indeed, in what it reveals of the history of scholarship in these islands, of the way universities work, and in what it tells us ultimately of the workings of the human mind and spirit, this book is extraordinary in many ways.


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Author:Andrew, Joe
Publication:The Modern Language Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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