A year ago I flew to Rome to attend the World Congress of History Producers. This is the largest gathering of history documentary film makers, and I knew only one person thereâ€”coincidentally, Iâ€™d heard from Gerry Sperling, a long-time contributor, the month before and he mentioned that he was going. I went without a plan but with a conviction that the story of human historyâ€”and big historyâ€”needed film treatment.
At this point I know youâ€™re saying, â€œBut Berkshire is a publishing company–you make encyclopedias. What does that have to do with the movies?â€ But in a 2002 interview, back when we were producing books for big publishers like Macmillan and Sage, I explained that, â€œwe are reference publishingâ€™s equivalent of an independent film company. We come up with the concept, evaluate the competition, make the deal with the publisher (the studio), hire the expert editors and contributors and researchers (the creative talent), direct the content development process, and deliver a clean copy to the publisher.â€
Publications like the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History involve hundreds of top scholars, and amazing talent and knowledge. While I havenâ€™t figured out quite how a small company like ours can move into such a challenging area, I feel sure that with the right partnerships that we can be involved in some wonderful new things, working with our existing networks of experts and creating new materials for teaching as well as for general audiences. These general audiences are interested in broad historic panoramas as well as the fascinating stories of the past, and they need history, too. As Bill McNeill pointed out in his introduction to the encyclopedia, â€œGenuinely inclusive world history is such a helpful, even necessary, guide for survival in the crowded world in which we live.â€
Berkshire is a bronze sponsor of the World Congress this year, and I look forward to fascinating presentations and rewarding discussions. I’ll be blogging, and you can read about last year’s conference here.