From Library Journal
O'Brien (global history, Univ. of London) headed the international scholars, editors, and cartographers, primarily from Great Britain and the United States, who have produced this handsome overview of world history, from the origins of humanity five million years ago to the present. The scope is truly international rather than reflecting the usual Eurocentric view. The progression of events, politics, and demographics is depicted in 450 easily interpreted color maps, with accompanying texts and illustrations. The atlas contains five topical subdivisions--"The Ancient World," "The Medieval World," "The Early Modern World," "The Age of Revolutions," and "The Twentieth Century"--with a final section featuring a multicultural time line; 600 encyclopedic entries for significant events, people, and places; a classified bibliography; and an extensive index--all fully cross-referenced. The Rand McNally Atlas of World History (1995) and the National Geographic Atlas of World History (1997) are less expensive but not as comprehensive. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Sys., Ft. Pierce, FL
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Covering events from approximately five million years ago to 1999, Atlas of World History
is a serious competitor to the established Times Atlas of World History
, which was last updated in 1994 [RBB My 15 94]. General editor O'Brien (Institute of Historical Research, University of London) claims in the foreword that "more than 20 years have passed since a major new atlas of this kind was published in the English language," referring no doubt to the first appearance of the Times Atlas
. This statement is subject to debate in light of the 1998 publication of Sharpe's Complete Atlas of World History
[RBB Ap 1 98], though at three volumes the Sharpe atlas can hardly be considered a handy source. Still, general historical atlases are few and far between, and the Oxford Atlas
represents a welcome addition to this sparse field.
Originally published in Great Britain earlier last year as Philip's Atlas of World History (to which it is still referred in the foreword), Atlas of World History has editors and contributors primarily based in educational institutions in the United Kingdom. The volume is divided into five main chronological sections, from "The Ancient World" to "The Twentieth Century." Each of these sections contains numerous two-page spreads featuring maps and accompanying essays. Following the maps are a 24-page "Timechart," a 32-page section called "Events, People and Places" that features brief entries on major subjects within the maps, a 24-page index, and a 4-page bibliography. With just over 440 maps, the Oxford atlas contains fewer maps than Times (at 600) though offsets this with lucid essays that are often longer than similar essays in Times. On the other hand, maps in Times tend to be larger.
Among other differences, Times generally features more colorful maps replete with arrows virtually everywhere indicating social, political, and cultural movements. Oxford maps are a bit more traditional in nature, and although similar movement is certainly shown, it tends not to be depicted as often or with as much dramatic flair. Whether one atlas is "better" than the other is more a matter of personal choice.
One area where Oxford definitively beats Times is in indexing. Oxford's concluding "Events, People and Places" appendix lists page numbers that link topics and maps, something sorely lacking in Times' similar "Glossary." A user trying to find maps depicting the movement of Christianity in Times will be frustrated; although Christianity is defined in its glossary, there are no map references, and the term isn't even listed in its index. In Oxford, the reader is treated to a brief definition with a listing of seven separate references and an even more detailed breakdown in the index. Oxford is also more up-to-date and includes a map showing the breakup of the Soviet Union, an omission RBB noted in the most recent Times.
Because no single work can show all the maps needed by a patron for a given time period, public, high-school, and academic libraries can never have enough historical atlases. At a price lower than Times, Oxford's Atlas of World History is a well-written, well-illustrated work that has successfully doubled the number of "must have" general historical atlases that most libraries should own.