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Although migration has attracted substantial historical investigation, contemporary historians have neglected the more specific study of refugees and forced migrants despite the global saliency of the phenomena and the multidisciplinary nature of the subject matter. Yet a historical perspective implicitly informs much of our understanding of the way political and social change, often over protracted periods, create the 'root causes' of persecution, violence and the humanitarian crises of refugee exodus. Similarly, development-induced, as well as war-generated, forced displacement irrevocably changes people's social world and again a historical perspective should enhance our insights into these processes. But it has usually been left to non-historians to make these connections, which regrettably leaves the history tangential to the main discourse. Gadi BenEzer's exploration of The Ethiopian Jewish Exodus: Narratives of the Migration Journey to Israel 1977-1985, the ninth volume in Routledge's Studies in Memory and Narrative series, follows this tradition...Reviewing the book provides the opportunity to place a critique within the wider frame which seeks to show how historical research, particularly oral history, might better contribute to the study of displacement and forced migration in general, and to refugee studies more specifically. The objective here is to stimulate a closer engagement by historians with this dynamic and perplexing field of academic investigation. In order to make these connections it is necessary to sketch the contours of the development of the 'refugee regime' on the one hand, and then the academic discourse which seeks to understand and explain the phenomenon on the other. Then the review returns to Gadi BenEzer's book in to explore its significance.

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Journal article


Oxford University Press

Publication Date



58 (1)


296 - 306