A Day in a Working Life: 300 Trades and Professions through History. By Gary Westfahl. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2015. 3 vols. Acid free. $310 (ISBN: 978-1-61069-402-5). E-book available (978-1-61069-403-2), call for pricing.

The evolution of the human experience over the past ten millennia is truly remarkable. Humans began their existence huddled over a fire, living in dark, dank caves. Today, we have the ability to construct towering skyscrapers in sprawling metropolises where countless millions of people call home. A Day in a Working Life aims to provide information on how our trades and professions evolved over time and led us to where we are today.

Author Gary Westfahl has done an admirable job of collecting and synthesizing the key information associated with each profession, making each entry pithy, yet rich in essential information. While he readily admits in the Preface that, “its coverage is necessarily selective, since no work of this size could possibly examine every single occupation in every single culture” (xv), Westfahl covers many key professions. Highlights include Hunters and Gathers, Blacksmiths, Musicians and Dancers, and Web Site Designers.

Each of the more thn three hundred entries in this set range from one to three pages in length. Every entry concludes with a fairly lengthy “Further Reading” section containing numerous citations for additional sources on the profession. Also included at the end of each entry is a “Document” section, where the citation and text of a relevant primary source document is provided for the corresponding occupation. As a result, each entry has an excellent flow to each entry; users are first given the essential overview information on the profession, then led to a list of additional resources to explore for further information, and then they are provided with a copy of a primary source material to further enhance their understanding of the profession.

If there is one critique to levy against this set, it would be the somewhat clunky method of tracking the evolution of a single profession over time. This set does contain a traditional, alphabetical index of professions at the end of its third volume, which is the only way users can track a profession over time. They can look up a profession in the index, and then refer to the corresponding sections in each of the three volumes to gather the information. This set is predominately organized by period; users first navigate to their desired period, and then alphabetically browse the professions contained within said period. If there were a more graceful way to browse first by profession, and then track how that profession changed and/or evolved throughout time, that would make this encyclopedia set even better.

While some of the indexing/organization of this set are less than ideal, overall, this is a high-quality encyclopedia rich with useful information. This encyclopedia set would be a welcome addition to any academic library.—Matthew Laudicina, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Sojourner Truth Library, State University of New York at New Paltz


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ALA Privacy Policy

© 2019 RUSA