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Encyclopedia of American History, 11-Volume Set Hardcover – May 22 2002


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Hardcover, May 22 2002
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From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up-This impressive, authoritative reference work covers topics spanning a period from approximately 11,000 B.C.E. through December 2001. Each volume has a separate editor (there is a general editor for the set) and most of the essays are signed. The volumes are organized chronologically, but the entries within each volume are alphabetical. Each book begins with a contents list, and there are copious see and cross-references. Essays of varying length cover events; "major categories of the American experience" (education, urbanization, etc.); people, places, concepts, and more. At the end of each entry, one or more suggestions for further reading (generally adult titles) are offered. Unfortunately, the volumes are sparsely illustrated with average-quality, black-and-gray photographs, drawings, and maps. In a resource that attempts to be as comprehensive as this one, more visuals, especially maps, are mandatory. Each book concludes with a volume-specific chronology, bibliography, and index. A separate index volume provides comprehensive access to the set. One of the best features of this resource are the "Document" sections that provide the full text of key portions of significant historical papers. This encyclopedia is a valuable resource for students of American history and can be used to support any classroom text, offering students ample opportunity for fuller exploration of topics of interest. That the encyclopedia "follows the architecture of The National Standards for United States History" is an additional point in its favor. While the volumes are not particularly attractive, the depth of content on many of the topics far exceeds that found in any general encyclopedia and many specialized resources.
Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, New York City
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* For 60 years the Dictionary of American History (DAH) has been the unrivaled source of choice for information about the history of the U.S. from its precolonial days on. Today it has an apparent rival in the Encyclopedia of American History (EAH).

An approach by era, secondary in the alphabetically-arranged DAH, forms the foundation of the EAH. Each volume reflects one of the eras in The National Standards for United States History, Revised Edition, used to organize the history curriculum. Thus, the set's applicability as a complement to classroom instruction is self-evident. Each volume, organized A-Z, covers in approximately 3,500 entries the key events, people, and trends that gave an era its distinctions and that influenced the eras to come.

The first volume, treating "Beginnings to 1607," provides rich context for the era of voyages of discovery. It depicts the Europe emerging from feudalism and religious wars, energized by science and curiosity and motivated by trade, as well as the cultures of the native peoples of the Americas, ill-prepared for their clash with outsiders. So it is that an encyclopedia of American history accommodates articles on Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci as well as Columbus and Elizabeth I. The back-of-the-book chronology (a feature of every volume) gives this context temporal structure. Every volume also includes transcriptions of primary documents (more selectively than the DAH) and a volume-specific index.

Befitting a reference tool designed to strengthen the high-school curriculum, EAH includes maps and other illustrations. Because it, unlike DAH, has biographical entries, many of the illustrations are portraits.

The potential drawback of the organization by era is fragmentation of broad topics such as education, religion, literature, race, and labor. These and others receive their due through an era-specific article in each volume (with the usual exception of the scene-setting volume 1). Information about specific topics treated in a dedicated article in just one volume (e.g., Ford Motor Corporation, Lewis and Clark expedition, Harvard College, Haymarket riot) may appear in other volumes as well. As in the DAH, entries in the set's comprehensive index knit these disparate discussions together. Also as in DAH, EAH's signed articles conclude with bibliographic references.

If they can have but one American history encyclopedia, libraries should consider their clientele's needs. AHigh-school libraries should go with EAH, and their librarians should capitalize on its value as a tool designed to support the curriculum. Public libraries need to consider whether users are most likely to be high-school students (in which case EAH) or college students and college-educated adults (in which case DAH). RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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