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This hefty volume covers history from around 4000 B.C.E. to the contemporary era. Each of the eight chapters--"Prehistory," "First Empires," "The Ancient World," "The Middle Ages," "The Early Modern Period," "The Modern Era," "The World Wars and The Interwar Period" and "The Contemporary Period"--is divided into topical sections and one-page subsections. Each section has a brief introduction, and each subsection is introduced by a one-sentence description. A time line found at the bottom of every page pinpoints key events, names, and dates corresponding to the page's content. Embellishing every page are anywhere from 5 to 10 illustrations, mostly in color, and though they are small, the illustrations are clear and well chosen and do a good job of bringing history to life. Numbers are used to key the images to the text. Other features include sidebars containing quotations, brief biographies, or interesting facts. Five two-page "Key Ideas" sections cover topics such as Christianity and Islam, and four "In Focus" foldouts offer chronological summaries of the Roman Empire, the Reformation, the French Revolution, and World War II.
Other recent single-volume world histories for the high-school level and up include Facts On File's Encyclopedia of World History (2000) and the sixth edition of Houghton's standard Encyclopedia of World History (2001). Each offers something different; the copiously illustrated Facts On File volume is arranged alphabetically, while the Houghton volume is arranged by broad time period, with divisions for regions, countries, and cultures. The National Geographic volume is more current, and this, along with content that is well organized, balanced, and attractively presented, makes it an exceptional value for school and public libraries. Carol Sue Harless
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Douglas Brinkley is director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies and professor of history at the University of New Orleans. Brinkley's recent publications include Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company and a Century of Progress and The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation with Stephen E. Ambrose. He lives in New Orleans with his wife, Anne, and daughter, Benton.