rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 1: p. 76
Sources: Encyclopedia of Media and Propaganda in Wartime America
Korey Brunetti

Korey Brunetti, Collections Coordinator/Reference & Instruction Librarian, California State University–East Bay

ABC-Clio’s Encyclopedia of Media and Propaganda in Wartime America [EMPWA] offers a unique treatment of conflict-related events and people that “were noteworthy for the media and propaganda they generated” (xix). Editors Manning, a librarian at the Bureau of Public Diplomacy, U.S. Department of State, and Wyatt, a Professor of History at Centre College, have blended military and social history with media studies, making this work useful for a broad range of students and other researchers.

EMPWA covers the period from the origins of the French and Indian Wars (approx. 1750), to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Articles are concise and engaging, defining topics according to their key sociopolitical messages. For example, the entry on the Ghost Dance, a term applied to a pair of ceremonial dances originated by Paiute and Sioux Indians in the 19th century, not only charts its historical origins but describes how the dance functioned as both a ritual to invoke the return of buffalo and, later, a way of organizing and empowering Indians in opposition to white Colonialism.

Historical context gives shape to this two-volume work, which is grouped into chapters corresponding with specific periods (“American Civil War,” “Cold War”). These are introduced by framing essays that summarize major historical events and related propaganda efforts. Entries are alphabetically arranged within chapters; this differs from ABC-Clio’s Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present (2003), which eschews chapters in favor of a fully alphabetical approach. While EMPWA’s organization may be less ideal for a quick look-up, it does contain sectional tables of contents and an index. Overall, these chronological chapters combined with the introductory essays add depth that will be especially useful to students of history.

Other features include a timeline of important events and extensive “See Also” notes for entries. References are provided for each article, in addition to a “Further Reading” bibliography for each chapter, adding to EMPWA’s function as a gateway to propaganda research. All articles are signed, and each volume contains an “About the Editors and Contributors” section that specifies contributor affiliations. Images are included throughout.

These last two features also highlight potential weaknesses. While many contributors are professors, librarians and institutionally affiliated historians, some articles are authored by independent scholars. This criticism is not intended to denigrate the value or quality of independent scholarship, but some selectors and faculty might find this troublesome. Moreover, the images, which are generally high quality, are a little scarce. As an example, the article on the Confederate Battle Flag states that it “is often confused with the national flag of the Confederacy” (317). While the article itself presents a succinct account of the flag’s symbolism during and after the Civil War, side-by-side images of the two flags would illuminate why the images are often confused. A visit to Wikipedia provided the missing images, but subsequent editions of EMPWA would benefit from added graphical content.

Overall, EMPWA seems to fill a gap in available reference tools, with its narrow focus on war propaganda and its role in the American story. Related titles include the aforementioned Propaganda and Mass Persuasion and Greenwood Press’s Historical Dictionary of American Propaganda (2004). These, however, are less substantial and more broadly focused than EMPWA, which is highly recommended for academic libraries, and public libraries that serve students and history buffs. EMPWA is also available as an e-book.



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