rusq: Vol. 50 Issue 2: p. 189
Sources: Milestone Documents in World History: Exploring the Primary Sources That Shaped the World
Gregory A. Crawford

Gregory A. Crawford, PhD, Director, Penn State Harrisburg Library, Middletown, Pennsylvania

Covering the entire span of humanity’s written history, the four volumes in this set include primary documents arranged in chronological order beginning with the Reform Edict of Urukagina (ca. 2350 BCE) and ending with the Constitutive Act of the African Union, which was signed at Lomé, Togo, on July 11, 2000. From this span of over 4,000 years, the editors and the advisory board selected 125 major documents that represent all inhabited geographical regions of the earth, although the selection excludes primary sources from the United States that are covered in three other titles in the series. This set does include a few documents drawn from world religions, but many more religious primary sources are covered in Milestone Documents of World Religions (Schlager, November 2010). One main weakness of the set, however, is the lack of clarity on the selection process. For example, why is Plato’s allegory of the cave included, but not his Apology of Socrates or a selection from his Republic, which have also had enormous impact on Western civilization?

The seventy-five contributors, primarily historians from the United States, although almost twenty are based at foreign universities, follow a standard format for the article on each document. Coverage includes an overview of the document and its importance in history, the context of the document, a time line of key events surrounding the document, a biographical profile of the author or authors, an explanation and analysis of the document, the intended audience, the historical impact of the document, questions for further study, essential quotes from and about the document, further readings, the actual text of the document in English translation, and a glossary of important terms in the text. Thus a student who uses this resource will be able to both read the document and immediately have access to information that will help in understanding its importance to world history. Almost 250 photographs and illustrations accompany the articles. Although most of the illustrations are superfluous, several, such as the photograph of the stele of Hammurabi, are helpful in that they visibly illustrate the actual document. Other features of the set include activity guides for teachers, a list of documents by category (such as laws and legal codes or treaties and agreements), a list of documents by region, and a subject index.

For teachers and students in world history survey courses, especially those in high school and lower division college classes, this will be a useful resource. Not only does it provide access to the text of important documents, it also provides a wealth of contextual information that will assist in understanding the documents themselves. Other titles cover similar grounds, but there is little overlap between them. For example, World History in Documents: A Comparative Reader edited by Peter Stearns (Pearson/Longman, 2009) includes sources from the same time span, but the focus is more on personal documents such as contracts, autobiographies, and speeches. Another set, Encounters in World History: Sources and Themes from the Global Past by Thomas Sanders et al. (McGraw-Hill, 2005) embeds original primary and visual sources into thematic chapters. Milestone Documents in World History is recommended for inclusion in high school and academic libraries. Due to the limited number of documents included, however, it will need to be supplemented by other resources that provide access to additional important primary sources.

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