Who's Who in British History: Beginnings to 1901

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9781884964909: Who's Who in British History: Beginnings to 1901
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First Published in 1998. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

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This alphabetically arranged biographical dictionary gives detailed listings for approximately 1,700 persons who had an impact on British history between 310 B.C. and 1901. Most of the contents were previously published as part of the eight-volume series Who's Who in British History (1989^-97), issued in the U.S. by St. James. The series, which is organized chronologically, is itself a revision and enlargement of another series, Who's Who in History (Blackwell, 1961^-74), which covered British history to 1837. The new oversized format is much more attractive, and some of the content has been slightly updated.

The cogent sketches both seat the subject firmly in his or her chronological setting and show the subject's effect on the times. The writing style is, for the most part, brisk and engaging, employing a rich vocabulary that targets the work for college-level research. Entries range in length from a few paragraphs to several double-column pages, with longer articles devoted to persons of relatively greater significance in terms of impact on their times. More than five pages, for example, are devoted to Alfred the Great; more than six to Henry VIII. No information is given about criteria for inclusion, and there are occasional questionable omissions. For example, while William of Ockham is cited as significant in six articles on other clerics and philosophers of his time, there is no entry for Ockham himself. Of the 1,700 people covered, only around 100 are women. By and large, however, each era is well represented by those who set the tenor of their times.

Most articles conclude with a short bibliography. Though contributors are listed on the title page, individual entries are not attributed, nor is information given on the backgrounds of the contributors or the editor. There are several points of entry. Aside from the alphabetical organization, which allows for easy location of any figure under consideration, a chronological listing and a division by 51 subject categories, ranging from academics to translators, are given at the beginning of volume 1. The opening section of volume 1 also contains an extensive reading list by era, a chronology, a glossary, a genealogical table of the Kings and Queens of Great Britain (1066^-1901), and two maps of Britain showing regions, peoples, man-made features, towns, bishoprics, and monasteries referenced in the text. There are mimimal cross-references, but the comprehensive index at the end of volume 2 is very nearly a work of art, with the main article on any person noted in bold print and auxiliary references following, some with explanatory text.

Although information on the better-known figures is readily available, Who's Who in British History covers Britain in more depth than general resources such as Encyclopedia of World Biography [RBB My 1 98]. It provides accessible information across an entire 2,000-plus-year time span, and does so in an easy-to-use format. The vast amount of accurate, unbiased information contained here, combined with a pleasant prose style, make this resource worthy of purchase where British history is studied. Institutions in possession of the eight-volume series may find the two-volume version redundant.

Review:

"Readers...will be instructed, stimulated and entertained."
-"Times Literary Supplement
"Although information on better-known figures is readily available, "Who's Who in British History covers Britain in more depth than general resources. It provides accessible information across an entire 2,000-plus-year time span, and does so in an easy-to-use format. The cast amount of accurate, unbiased information contained here, combined with a pleasant prose style, makes this resource worthy of purchase wherever British history is studied."
-"Booklist/RBB
"The writing is interesting and lively, designed to spark students' interest in history and biography."
-"Choice
"Although the scope of the book makes it impossible to include the truly obscure, the book's coverage is impressive, and the articles themselves are informative and well written. The authors have taken recent historiographical developments into consideration, and, although never tendentious, they do not shy away from offering judgment.... Students, casual readers, and scholars in need of historical detail will find all these volumes to be extremely valuable."
-"American Reference Books Annual

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