“The strength of this magnificent series lies not just in its comprehensive coverage but also in the quality of the individuals who have contributed to it. It will be an enormously large and valuable resource for a growing world community of environmental interest and concern. I highly recommend it.”

James Gustave Speth, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

“Nothing is more important to humanity than sustainability, and the Berkshire Encyclopedia [of Sustainability] is a wonderful resource for all those who wish to understand its multiple dimensions. Well-written and up-to-date, it is a pleasure to browse in.”

Paul R. Ehrlich, Stanford University

“This is undoubtedly the most important and readable reference on sustainability of our time.”

Jim MacNeill, Secretary-General of the Brundtland Commission; lead author of Our Common Future

“The Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability makes a timely and unique contribution to understanding and professionalizing the concept of sustainability to which Rio 20 is dedicated.”

Maurice Strong, Secretary General of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit

“Sustainability is one of the most important concepts of the 21st century yet remains elusive in implementation. This set of authoritative volumes provides an ‘operator’s manual’ for the long-term sustainability of the human enterprise on planet Earth.”

Will Steffen, Australian National University Climate Change Institute

“This is an ocean of information. Nowhere else is there so much knowledge and wisdom to be found as within these encyclopedias. This last volume is the icing on the cake. Every university, every school, and every library will be enriched with this treasure of knowledge.”

Satish Kumar, Resurgence

“Sustainability will be the defining discipline of the 21st century. Making sense of the sprawling body of sustainability knowledge and insights—to help make it available for a growing audience—is a massive challenge. Berkshire’s Encyclopedia of Sustainability has risen to that challenge with flair, imagination and commanding authority.”

Jonathon Porritt, Forum for the Future

“The call we made in Our Common Future, back in 1987, is even more relevant today. Having a coherent resource like the Encyclopedia of Sustainability, written by experts yet addressed to students and general readers, is a vital step, because it will support education, enable productive debate, and encourage informed public participation as we join, again and again, in the effort to transform our common future.”

Gro Harlem Brundtland, Chair, World Commission on Environment and Development

“On our endangered planet, the term ‘sustainability’ is code for survival. The remarkable ten volume Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability has become a go-to source-book for ecological—no, make that human—survival in the new millennium. . . . If you want one collection on sustainability that does it all, one source that facilitates the creation of a more just and greener world, then start with Volume 10 of the Berkshire Encyclopedia [of Sustainability] and read your way back to Volume 1.”

Benjamin R. Barber, Rutgers University

“The Enlightenment of the 18th century had its famous encyclopedia that catalyzed dramatic improvements in science, society, and governance . . . the dawning Ecological Enlightenment of the 21st century now has its encyclopedia to light the way forward to a durable and decent future for humankind . . . a compass for a long, perilous journey through an unknown territory.”

David W. Orr, Oberlin College

“It’s past time for proponents of sustainability to move beyond empty slogans and baby steps. Everyone who is ready to get serious will profit from this robust, comprehensive, diverse collection of cutting edge thinking from some of the smartest members of our species.”

Denis Hayes, Principal organizer of the first Earth Day

“The 21st century will be the age of sustainability or bust. As the journey becomes imperative, there is no better vade mecum than the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability—informative, lively, and comprehensive in its scope.”

Isabel Hilton, chinadialogue.net

“Assuming we’re wise enough to heed the warnings of scientists, this will have to be the century of sustainability. And this comprehensive set of volumes will help form the core of a library for informed citizens.”

Bill McKibben, Third Act

Our mission is to open new windows on the world and to support learning at all levels, from the curious high-school student in a developing country to the professional person who wants to get up to speed on a subject outside his or her expertise. Our goal is to make sense of the information that floods our lives, approaching perennial subjects in fresh ways. We’re known for asking “How?” and “Why?”  – not just Who, What, When, and Where – and we’re are convinced that today’s knowledge as well as the wisdom of ages past will enable us to face the future.

William H. McNeill, senior editor of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History, was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2010

Berkshire has focused on subjects that really matter as we design books on global issues. And we’re always looking at fields where vital research is being done and where there are new careers opening up. Join us as we explore different countries, different periods in the history of humanity, and look to the stars and galaxies. Our community includes teachers and students, writers and scientists, and experts from universities in over one hundred countries – all curious about this beautiful wide world and eager to share knowledge for our common future.

Encyclopedia of China contributors map.

Berkshire Publishing Group specializes in international relations, cross-cultural communication, global business and economic information, and environmental sustainability. The Berkshire Encyclopedia of China had more than 300 contributors from all over the world.


Our publications are peer-reviewed and we have many well-known scholars amongst our contributors. Our readers are global citizens who want to make the world a better place. Join this community of scholars, writers, students, and teachers who share a heartfelt desire to explore and understand the complex world of the 21st century.

In early days, Berkshire was an academic reference book producer, developing encyclopedias for Scribners, Routledge, Macmillan, and other major publishers, and creating the titles that launched the SAGE Reference imprint.

Our books, ebooks, and databases are available directly from us and sold through all major wholesalers, including Ingram Global. Most Berkshire encyclopedias are available online from Oxford University Press and many of our books are available through JStor.  And join our mailing list to receive news about new publications in areas ranging from Black studies to leadership.

“Incredibly, [the Encyclopedia of Community: From the Village to the Virtual World] is the first encyclopedia to focus on community as concept and experience, so stands alone in its field as the one title any library must buy to cover this topic. . .  .  Essential. All readerships.”

CHOICE, from the book review

“The call we made in Our Common Future, back in 1987, is even more relevant today. Having a coherent resource like the Encyclopedia of Sustainability, written by experts yet addressed to students and general readers, will support education, enable productive debate, and encourage informed public participation as we join in the effort to transform our common future.”

Gro Harlem Brundtland, Chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development and three-time prime minister of Norway

“Works like the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction play a valuable role in lending definition to emerging, interdisciplinary fields of study.”

Against the Grain, from the book review

“[Berkshire’s Patterns of Global Terrorism] offers a great service to policy makers, journalists, researchers, and the general public … [It] provides context, coherence, and thorough access.”

Reference & Research Book News, from the book review

“A monumental undertaking, [the International Encyclopedia of Women and Sports, edited by Christensen et al.] covers women’s sports worldwide and throughout history … A scholarly resource for public libraries and school at all levels, middle school through college.”

Library Journal, from the book review

“Take a publisher with a decade of experience in China, add a group of well-known Chinese and Western scholars, pay special attention to details, add 1100 unique photographs, sprinkle in dozens of traditional Chinese proverbs, do it all on recycled, chlorine-free paper, and the end result is [the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Chinaa] sumptuous resource on all things China for the 21st century.”

Library Journal Best Reference, from the book review

“Sorting the sum of human endeavors and presenting students with a coherent plan of study is no easy task, but [in creating the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History] a winning combination of distinguished historians and a seasoned editorial staff has proven more than equal to this massive undertaking.”

John Lawrence, Lawrence Looks at Books

“The Encyclopedia of Leadership is a model of a modern reference book … [it] belongs in the personal collection of every person seriously interested in leadership, whether as student, scholar, or practitioner.”

Compass, Kennedy School, Harvard, from the book review

Berkshire is a very small company, but we’re mostly known for creating very big works. A few people still say, “You do encyclopedias, don’t you?” That is far from the whole story in 2022! Several of our very small books have been very successful, and as we move beyond the 2020-22 pandemic, our focus is on smaller titles, and incremental learning.

This is a natural transition from creating landmark reference works. Our expertise is in working with top scholars to provide beautiful, curated collections of short, expert-written overviews on important subjects. We have almost always taken in the whole wide world (world sport, world history, world religions, world cultures). In the past, we put these collections together in massive library reference sets. We still see value in such works, but it’s increasingly difficult to find a viable financial model. We’re looking for better technical solutions, and at the same time thinking about new ways to put knowledge where you need it.

One aspect of creating an encyclopedia is especially relevant today: we set word limits. It was a challenge for our expert authors, many of whom had written whole books, or bookshelves, on a subject. They had to condense that knowledge into 3,000 or 4,000 words, in language that an intelligent high school student would understand. Scholars and professionals told us they found these short, carefully edited articles of value when they wanted the basics about a subject outside their discipline.

Over the years, we have consolidated and condensed material from some encyclopedias into short books (about 25,000 words) on global issues in the series This World of Ours. This Fleeting World by David Christian is in a sixth printing. Jonathan Spence, author of many acclaimed books about Chinese history, wrote, “It is hard to imagine that such a short book can cover such a vast span of time and space. Berkshire’s This Is China: The First 5,000 Years [now in a second edition updated by Kerry Brown] will help teachers, students, and general readers alike, as they seek for a preliminary guide to the contexts and complexities of Chinese culture.” This history led us to the idea of Very VERY Short Introductions (VVSIs): convenient, attractive, and accessible short books offering authoritative analysis and explaining big ideas. We’ve also begun publishing new editions of classics in a variety of areas. This is not uncommon, but ours are distinguished by a simple objective: we want these books to be as readable as possible. We aren’t including long scholarly introductions or extensive notes at the back. There’s plenty of information available online and in other editions to help the academic reader. We want readers to read, to enjoy the books, be inspired by the stories they tell, to revel in the sound of the poetry.

What about the encyclopedias? Much of our list is available online with Oxford Reference, and some individual volumes are available on other platforms. Print sets are in stock, for libraries that want them, and we expect to put more online in the days ahead. We have regained rights to some of our major works published originally by Scribners, Macmillan, and Routledge, and will be making them available via JStor and others.

Karen Christensen

Karen Christensen, CEO of Berkshire Publishing, speaking in Taiwan in 2013

We also have new editions that were in the works when the 2020 pandemic lockdowns began. A sampling of new articles is available online, and we are looking for a system that will allow us greater flexibility to publish digitally first and then assemble the final text into a new print encyclopedia.

Our first priority is to provide information, knowledge, and wisdom that will help all of us respond effectively to the challenges of our time: climate change, sectarian violence, threats to democracy, food scarcity, and more. This is why we are focusing our efforts on sustainability in a broad sense, and why we see the war in Ukraine, against Putin’s Russia, as one that needs to be fought and won. The ripple effects of that conflict show just what a small planet we live on.

Berkshire is owned by Karen Christensen and operates internationally from Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Click here for more Berkshire Publishing history.

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