I’m writing from Rome, so the city is on my mind.
Getting all of world history, or rather enough of world history, into five volumes was a considerable challenge. One thing we had to do was cut. And cut. And cut again. We were determined to get away from the approach taken in previous works called encyclopedias of world history, so we avoided chronological or regional material without global context. We also, as much as we could, avoided the dictionary approach: people, places, and events out of context, just one after another.
The hardest cut was our articles on cities, past and present. Urban centers have been immensely important in human history, and they can be discussed in terms of global impact, connection, and webs of communication and commerce. But we ran out of room. The good news is that we are turning that material into a separate publication, the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Cities in World History. The title consciously echoes Lewis Mumford’s The City in History; Mumford is somehow we have a sense of close connection with, because of my friendship with his widow Sophie in the 1990s (she died in 1997, after living through the whole of the 20th century).
I know we’ve chosen to base our publishing business in a small town, but David and I both love cities. Now, after three hours in Rome, I am already certain that this city, too, along with London and New York and Paris and Beijing, is a place I’ll remain enamoured of. Exploring the magic of cities–as well as their problems and their impact–will be part of creating the new encyclopedia.