Our mission at Berkshire Publishing is to support learning at all levels with books on global issues. We’re thinking of everyone 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. 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

New and complex challenges face us, along with new and exciting opportunities. 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.

Encyclopedia of China contributors map.

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. Click here to download a catalog. And join our mailing list to receive news about new publications in areas ranging from Black studies to leadership.

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“[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

“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

“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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