rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 4: p. 370
Sources: Encyclopedia of South Africa
Kristin J. Henrich

Kristin J. Henrich, Reference Coordinator, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho

Although other encyclopedias, such as John Middleton's Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara (Scribner's Sons, 1997) and Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates’ Encyclopedia of Africa (Oxford, 2010), include detailed entries about South Africa, the Encyclopedia of South Africa is the first English-language reference work to focus exclusively and comprehensively on the country of South Africa. Edited by Krista Johnson (Howard University) and Sean Jacobs (The New School), the Encyclopedia of South Africa is an authoritative and accessible introduction to the complex history, politics, and culture of the country.

The Encyclopedia of South Africa is organized alphabetically by entry and covers topics ranging from the geographical to the sociological; examples include thematic entries such as “Political Cultures and Ideologies,” “Land Tenure and Dispossession,” and “Theater and Performance,” as well as briefer entries providing information about topics such as cultural figures, languages, indigenous groups, or cities. Entries are well written and provide thorough explanation without overwhelming the reader, and many end with a bibliography of further reading. The content and tone of the writing presents a thoughtful, balanced, and informative look at issues and is particularly welcome in complex entries such as “AIDS” and “Gold & Diamond Mining.” The appendixes are a practical complement to the main text and provide up to date statistics, a chronology of South African history, and a chronology of key apartheid legislation. One noticeable omission is a cumulative reading list; although the majority of entries feature bibliographies, not all do, and readers would likely benefit from a central reading list. Concluding the text is a list of volume contributors and an excellent index.

Overall, the Encyclopedia of South Africa is a strong reference work which benefits from simple organization and a clear writing style. Librarians and patrons alike will appreciate the care taken in providing continuity clues; readers are alerted in-paragraph to name changes such as “the Free State Province (formerly the Orange Free State Province)” (178). The encyclopedia also provides meticulous cross-referencing; helpful in circumstances when a patron researching the “ANC” may be redirected to the “African National Congress.” A glossary of acronyms is also included in the appendixes. Highly recommended for all libraries.

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