Preface to the Sixth Edition. 2001. The Encyclopedia of World History
The Encyclopedia of World History.
Preface to the Sixth Edition
The history of this encyclopedia is one of the most interesting in American (and German) publishing,with a lineage going back well over a century. My colleagues and I, as editors of this new edition,have been conscious of our responsibility in dealing with probably the most revered reference workin our discipline. I myself knew and used what we called the “Langer encyclopedia,” after itsdistinguished editor, William L. Langer, throughout my professional education and career. My copywas a gift from my father, and all the more cherished as a result.
The present edition takes up the encyclopedia's heritage with that combination of change andcontinuity that any historian will recognize as a standard of human endeavor. We have kept the styleof most references, as well as many specific entries from what was a marvelous compendium. Wehave retained the emphasis on periodization as an organizing device for the historian's craft. But inseeking to match the earlier editors' commitment to thoroughness and to an up-to-date rendition of history as a discipline, we have also made significant changes. Two of these warrant brief commentby way of orientation, and two others deserve more complete explanation.
First, the present edition changes the format a bit, in that it sets out highlights before taking up themajor periods and areas in detail. This arrangement is partly for convenience and partly to helpreaders see the forest before they engage the trees. Not all major developments, after all, fall into neatyear-by-year categories, yet they must be conveyed. Purely event-based history is less satisfactorynow than it was a generation ago.
Second, the book has been updated chronologically from the early 1970s, where the previous editionleft off, to the end of the second millennium in the Christian, or Common Era, calendar. This updatecaptures a host of specific developments, but particularly the unfolding of history in the many new orrenewed nations of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific; the trends of increasing globalization; the revival of key religions; and the end of the cold war around 1989.
Two other changes, each of which required a major recasting of the encyclopedia and some reductionof previous coverage of Western Europe, reflect the twin revolutions in historical study during thepast generation. The past has been redefined, and now this venerable encyclopedia has been as well.
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