The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
Preface to the Sixth Edition
The history of this encyclopedia is one of the most interesting in American (and German) publishing, with a lineage going back well over a century. My colleagues and I, as editors of this new edition, have been conscious of our responsibility in dealing with probably the most revered reference work in our discipline. I myself knew and used what we called the “Langer encyclopedia,” after its distinguished editor, William L. Langer, throughout my professional education and career. My copy was a gift from my father, and all the more cherished as a result.  1
The present edition takes up the encyclopedia's heritage with that combination of change and continuity that any historian will recognize as a standard of human endeavor. We have kept the style of most references, as well as many specific entries from what was a marvelous compendium. We have retained the emphasis on periodization as an organizing device for the historian's craft. But in seeking to match the earlier editors' commitment to thoroughness and to an up-to-date rendition of history as a discipline, we have also made significant changes. Two of these warrant brief comment by way of orientation, and two others deserve more complete explanation.  2
First, the present edition changes the format a bit, in that it sets out highlights before taking up the major periods and areas in detail. This arrangement is partly for convenience and partly to help readers see the forest before they engage the trees. Not all major developments, after all, fall into neat year-by-year categories, yet they must be conveyed. Purely event-based history is less satisfactory now than it was a generation ago.  3
Second, the book has been updated chronologically from the early 1970s, where the previous edition left off, to the end of the second millennium in the Christian, or Common Era, calendar. This update captures a host of specific developments, but particularly the unfolding of history in the many new or renewed nations of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific; the trends of increasing globalization; the revival of key religions; and the end of the cold war around 1989.  4
Two other changes, each of which required a major recasting of the encyclopedia and some reduction of previous coverage of Western Europe, reflect the twin revolutions in historical study during the past generation. The past has been redefined, and now this venerable encyclopedia has been as well.  5
Historians now take very seriously the history of ordinary people and of facets of life apart from the great events of politics, diplomacy, and high culture. Shifts in the relationships between men and women, developments in leisure, demographic currents, and many other topics are now part of the historical mainstream. They draw attention both because they are important in their own right — workers, minority groups, and crime patterns have serious histories of their own, without which current social patterns cannot be understood — and because they have major impacts on politics, war, and high culture. Groups of ordinary people are historical actors, not just acted upon. Social and cultural history, largely ignored in the previous editions, is now given consistent attention, so that major trends can be traced and evaluated alongside the more familiar parade of statesmen and scientists. Aspects of this newer approach to history are still a knowledge frontier, and major discoveries continue to occur; but there is abundant material that can be conveyed in a standard reference work of this sort.  6
The final change in the new edition reflects the explosion of knowledge about the histories of regions outside of Western Europe and North America and about larger, crosscutting global trends. The sections dealing with Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America are almost unrecognizable when juxtaposed with their counterparts in the previous edition. They are much more extensive, with a host of data included that was absent before. And their tone is different, in conveying significant histories that go well beyond the chronicling of the impact of the West. The histories of the world's regions outside of Europe are elaborate and complex, in premodern centuries as well as in modern times.  7
A related change is the focus on trends that cannot be captured through the coverage of a single nation or even a single region, particularly in the sections on international patterns that preface each major chronological divide. Here are details about the diffusion of technologies or the impacts of migration, disease, and trade; and here, in the more contemporary eras, is coverage of international governmental and commercial organizations.  8
Simply put, this is a volume that has always intended to convey the key features of world history. The world we know historically has greatly changed. The revisions that animate this edition celebrate this change, benefiting from the labors of countless venturesome scholars over the past several decades.  9
— Peter N. Stearns, 2001  10
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.