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Sponsoring World History

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 there—coincidentally, I’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 history—and big history—needed film treatment.

At this point I know you’re saying, “But Berkshire is a publishing company–you make encyclopedias. What does that have to do with the movies?” But in a 2002 interview, back when we were producing books for big publishers like Macmillan and Sage, I explained that, “we are reference publishing’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.”

Publications like the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History involve hundreds of top scholars, and amazing talent and knowledge. While I haven’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, “Genuinely inclusive world history is such a helpful, even necessary, guide for survival in the crowded world in which we live.”

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.

3 thoughts on “Sponsoring World History

  1. Hi Karen,

    Maybe its the subject matter and a case of finding another underwriter besides a large publishing house.

    For example, I can imagine a history of the venture capital industry book, which would be funded in part by a large VC.

    When it comes to selling a company one other option besides selling to a VC is to look for a company that both wants to make a profit, but also has some interest in the same marketplace. Perhaps there are companies that would be interested in producing a history book on their industry, that would also have popular interest beyond the industry.

    My VC history idea would be snapped up by every tech small business owner looking for examples of how to take their company to market. Anyway that’s just an example.

  2. John, you seem to be talking about what’s called custom publishing. That’s a type of sponsored publishing, and does happen. But it’s not what we do (and doesn’t interest me–because it would mean doing projects because there was money to support a particular presentation, not because of intrinsicly interesting material). What I’m doing here in London is looking for ways to take our current publishing projects and areas to film, which can be shown on television, broadband Internet, and mobile media. I might well be looking for corporate support on a film project, but in a general way, not in terms of deciding our subjects. Cheers, Karen.

  3. Oh, I thought you were thinking of developing partnerships with other organizations? You had mentioned above that you were still attempting to figure out a way to develop such projects. Maybe I am not understanding what you want to do. Could you explain more please?

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