1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Editorial Preface

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EDITORIAL PREFACE

IF it had not been for the World War, there would not have been any occasion, so early as 1922, for a Supplement to the Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, as published in 1911. But for the exceptional situation so created, the original intention not to take in hand anything equivalent to a Twelfth Edition until a much later date would undoubtedly have been maintained.

So colossal a convulsion, however, as that of the war, with consequences shown in so many unexpected directions and radically changing the world-outlook under the new conditions, made the need for this prompt addition to universal history absolutely imperative, as a record and illumination of so peculiarly dark and complex a period. The gap between 1911 and 1921 is all the more noticeable because, from the middle of 1914 onwards, authentic history could not be written at all, as had been practicable normally under earlier peace conditions, in such periodical publications as have usually served the requirements of the public for purposes of reference on contemporary affairs. The very nature of the war, and of the war conditions which persisted even after the Armistice, not only involved the imposition of secrecy, the cutting off of intercommunication, and even an interested perversion of fact in much that was given out for belief, but also led to a state of paralysis and aphasia in the spheres where, before the war, independent observation and judgment were to be found. Attention was monopolized everywhere by conditions of urgency and emergency, and concentrated upon the immediate conduct of life, while almost every expert, whether in scholarship or in science, was living, so to speak, from hand to mouth, with his accustomed intellectual activities interrupted, suspended, or diverted.

In such circumstances there arose inevitably a clear call for the publication of a Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica at as early a date as was practicable after the war, conformably with the arrival of a stage in post-war reconstruction which would once more enable its Editor to secure a reasonable modicum of the disinterested international coöperation on which the value of the Encyclopædia Britannica, as a critical record of world-history, has so long depended.

These New Volumes of the Encyclopædia Britannica accordingly follow precedents established during the 154 years since it made its first appearance in 1768. Between its Third (1788–97) and Fourth (1801–10) Editions, a two-volume Supplement (1801) to the Third Edition was published; and while the Fifth Edition (1815–7, a reprint of the Fourth) was still current, and the reëdited Sixth (1823–4) was nearly ready for issue, a “Supplement to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Editions,” edited by Macvey Napier, appeared in six volumes during 1816–24. In 1902 again, by way of supplement to the Ninth Edition (1875–89), there were published eleven New Volumes, forming in combination with it the Tenth Edition, for the general editorship of which the present writer, taking over the task early in 1900 from the late Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace, was responsible. Incidentally those eleven New Volumes set a new precedent in publications of this kind by being prepared and issued simultaneously, and the same method was subsequently adopted in the preparation of the Eleventh Edition (1911).

Had it not been for the war, the twenty years between the average date of the Ninth Edition (25 Volumes, 1875–89) and the date of its supplementary New Volumes, which were added to form the Tenth Edition (1902), may be regarded as indicating the length of interval which might well have been expected to follow the publication of the Eleventh Edition before it in turn had a supplement added to it, to form in combination with it the Twelfth Edition. The course now taken, however, is directly in line with Macvey Napier’s great Supplement (1816–24) to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Editions. The extent of that Supplement exhibited, indeed, a notable advance in the whole standard of the Britannica as a work of original scholarship and expert authority—the result of the copyrights having recently passed into the hands of the enterprising publisher Constable: but its interest in this particular connexion lies in the fact that it was conceived as a response to the pressing demand for a comprehensive survey of the situation resulting from the Great War which had just ended at Waterloo in 1815. In 1816, when the first volume of Macvey Napier’s Supplement appeared, the same need was felt for an authoritative record and reconsideration of the new developments during the convulsions of 1793–1815 as has arisen now in respect of the decade ending with 1921, and for very similar reasons. Anyone who still cares to examine that remarkable Supplement of 1816–24 will find that the ideals of public service in education set before themselves by Constable and Macvey Napier (as expressed by the latter in his Preface to the Sixth Volume) were identical with those which animate the Encyclopædia Britannica to-day. The present writer, having made this examination, with knowledge of the many difficulties of his own task a hundred years later (on the first subsequent occasion of an engrossing conflict having upset the world), is bound to testify to the admirable way in which, amid evidence of similar obstructions and complications, Macvey Napier carried out his scheme. His Supplementary Volumes, organized at the conclusion of the Great War of 1793–1815, formed the only critical and universal survey then available of the period just ended. They brought together a mass of valuable material which was afterwards incorporated in later editions; indeed much of this information, fresh from the sources, could only have been placed on record by being obtained at that time—a consideration which is encouraging to the Editor of the present New Volumes in regard to the permanent value of the material embodied in them also.

In one respect, possibly, Macvey Napier may appear to have had an advantage over the present Editor, or a somewhat easier task, in that he had eight years over which to spread the publication of his volumes—first issued in parts. But his successor a hundred years later is too conscious of the real advantage given to the public by immediate and simultaneous production, and indeed of the superior quality which such a work possesses when the whole of it has been under editorial control at one time, to take this superficial view. Having himself organized the production of these New Volumes within a single year—a year, moreover, characterized by post-war unrest and unsettlement—he may perhaps make this difference of method some excuse, however, for any imperfections in them which may be found in the light of later events or of knowledge undisclosed while they were in the making.[1] The generous reader may pardon some incidental defects or omissions, in consideration of his having the use, practically at once, of the full Supplement, as complete as it could reasonably be made, and not having to wait several years for a succession of volumes with long intervals between them. In the latter case each volume would be apt to exasperate him by cross-references from its articles to others in a volume still inaccessible; each earlier one, furthermore, would become relatively out-of-date as soon as the next one appeared; and the whole must lack organic unity, because the subject-matter, as distributed in one volume or another, must necessarily have been dealt with at different dates from dissimilar viewpoints.

These New Volumes, systematically arranged, in accordance with the traditional standards of the Encyclopædia Britannica, so that the articles may be adapted either for continuous reading or for occasional reference, have been planned as a guide to an appreciative understanding of contemporary affairs. The reader has before him what may be described as an international stock-taking, by carefully selected authorities, of the march of events all over the world from 1909–10 to 1920–1, and of the nature and critical value of such advances as were made in the principal branches of knowledge during that period. In this respect the New Volumes aim at giving a key to the problems of to-day, so far as these contemporary problems are bound up—as indeed they are to an unprecedented extent—with the new social and economic issues which only began to emerge in their present magnitude, or to impress themselves on the public, as the result of the tremendous upheaval caused by the World War. Yet it is necessary, in the interests of a publication which is essentially educational, to add one proviso. It remains as true as ever that contemporary human life and interests are organically related not only to the immediate developments of one preceding decade but to those of a succession of earlier decades and epochs, back to the abysses of time. The great Drama is of the Ages, and can only be appreciated with all its Acts on record. The eye which looks only at the passing scene is too often colour-blind. The roots of the Post-War World go down into the Pre-War World. Its proper interpretation can be found only in the light of all that earlier history on which we can look back—as we cannot do on contemporary affairs—with assurance that it is seen in perspective and in ordered values, as the result of an accumulation of disinterested criticism. The Post-War World is the residuary legatee of the Pre-War World, from which it inherits the whole basis of its intellectual equipment. The present survey of recent happenings, indispensable though it may be as an account of the Post-War World, can only therefore be utilized perfectly when it is regarded as an integral part of the unitary library of education represented in all the thirty-two volumes now forming the complete Twelfth Edition. The structure of that great edifice, with its contents, is not substantially affected by the fact that it has been built with an Annexe for housing more recent acquisitions, in the shape of these New Volumes. They are designed as having behind or beside them the main body of the work—the earlier Volumes of the Eleventh Edition which were constructed in the closing years of the Pre-War World.

It may be pardonable for the present writer, at the end of the twenty-first year of his occupancy of the position of Editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica, to emphasize in retrospect one specially valuable characteristic of the Eleventh Edition, in supplying to-day an authoritative digest of world history and the progress of knowledge up to the last few months before it was originally published in 1911. Its value does not merely depend on the benefit secured to the reader of these New Volumes by its having also been produced as a whole at one date, so that its accounts of every subject, organically distributed under appropriate headings, represent uniformly a single editorial policy (identical with that of to-day), a common terminus of time in the facts dealt with, and a common standard of criticism in the viewpoints of its contributors—so far as expert opinion at any one moment is ever in agreement. This in itself is, no doubt, a great convenience in the linking up of the later information provided in the New Volumes.[2] But there is a still more important quality attaching to the Eleventh Edition, of which indeed its Editor was not himself fully aware during the critical years of its preparation. It required the experience obtained during the gestation of these New Volumes to teach the Editor how much simpler a matter it is to create such a "Library of Education" when the world is at peace and is progressing normally, as it was in the years preceding 1911, than when, as recently, it is everywhere in convulsion, nobody being able to tell from week to week what he would be doing next, or where some new complication or even revolution, political, economic, industrial or scientific, might break out, to the upsetting of any attempt at orderly statement of the progress of events and the crystallization of opinion. Though it was not so realized at the time, it is now evident that the maximum service which the Encyclopædia Britannica could have performed for the public of to-day was the production of the Eleventh Edition in 1911, before the war of 1914–9 cut a Grand Canyon gash in the whole intellectual structure of the world. For what would have happened if the complete new edition which would follow the Tenth Edition had not been undertaken until several years later—say, after the Armistice? In that case it would still have been necessary, in, some way, to keep what may roughly be divided as the Pre-War and Post-War Worlds distinct. The account of the Post-War World would then substantially be what appears in the present New Volumes; for this must, in any case, start at a convenient point before the war, in order to make the break intelligible, and it must differ in scope and perspective from the part devoted to the Pre-War World, in proportion as its new problems require a different sort of discussion according to their bearing on the future rather than as continuations of past history. But so far as the Pre-War World is concerned—everything, that is to say, except the contemporary developments of the decade preceding 1921—it may be asserted, without fear of contradiction from anyone who can appreciate the responsibilities of an Editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica, that, if the task had not been undertaken till after 1914, it would have been absolutely impossible to produce to-day anything so comprehensively authoritative or critically complete as is actually available in the shape of the Eleventh Edition owing to its having been produced just before the war.

In the present writer’s judgment it is very remarkably the fact that, however carefully the contents of the Eleventh Edition are tested, as representing the highest standards of international research and criticism, whether in Science or in Art or in historical information, up to 1911, nothing substantial has occurred since to diminish its value or alter its perspective. The reason is that it was fortunately produced at a quiet period, when there was every opportunity for obtaining sure, authoritative and orderly surveys, in a world-society which was evolving along known lines of “normalcy”—to use President Harding’s favourite expression—fairly calculable in advance in accordance with well-informed expectations, and permitting of a reasonably final judgment on the sequence of contemporary progress in relation to the past. To-day, on the other hand, the whole atmosphere of scholarship and thought has temporarily been vitiated by the world upheaval, and the coöperation enlisted for the Eleventh Edition is unattainable under present conditions. It is not too much to say that the service done by the Encyclopædia Britannica for the public, by bringing together in the Eleventh Edition its unique combination of the world’s ripest judgments on every sort of subject, could not have been rendered to this generation at all if that Edition had not been completed before the war. As the composition of the present New Volumes shows, it has still been possible for the Editor to enlist the most highly qualified experts, and writers officially connected with Government Departments or Services, for dealing with matters familiar to them (and often known only to them) in the course of the past decade. But the writing of contemporary history by persons who have been chief agents or eye-witnesses is one thing; it is quite another to recreate the whole drama of the far-reaching past. To do that, as it was done in the Eleventh Edition, needs a type of mind and will which for the present has largely ceased to function along the pre-war ways.

Irrespectively, indeed, of the question whether as good a complete edition as the Eleventh could have been produced de novo now, it would cost in any case at least twice as much to make as it did in 1911, and it would have to be sold at a far higher price. But, from the editorial point of view, the important fact is that it could not be made to-day so as to have anything like the scholarly value of the work produced before the war by the contributors to the Eleventh Edition. Neither the minds nor the wills that are required for such an undertaking are any longer obtainable in any corresponding degree, nor probably can they be again for years to come. This is partly due to sheer “war-weariness,” which has taken many forms. A shifting of interest has taken place among writers of the academic type, so that there is a disinclination to make the exertion needed for entering anew into their old subjects a necessary condition for just that stimulating, vital presentation of old issues in the light of all the accumulated knowledge about them, which was so valuable a feature of the Eleventh Edition; the impulse has temporarily been stifled by the pressure of contemporary problems. Many of the pre-war authorities, moreover, have died without leaving any lineal successors, and others have aged disproportionately during the decade, while the younger generation has had its intellectual energies diverted by the war to work of a different order. Again (a most essential factor), it would have been impossible to attain the same full measure of international cooperation, among representatives of nations so recently in conflict, and in a world still divided in 1921 by the consequences of the war almost as seriously as while hostilities were actually raging.

It is with some satisfaction that the Editor has been able to make a fresh beginning in these New Volumes toward a revival of this cooperation, by including German, Austrian and Hungarian contributors, in addition to those from the countries allied or associated with the British Empire and the United States during the war. In the material structure of the New Volumes, and their sub-editing, the same note of Anglo-American solidarity is struck as in the Eleventh Edition; and this is again emphasized by their being dedicated jointly to the two Heads of the English-speaking peoples, by express permission of King George V. and President Harding. Nowhere except in Great Britain and the United States would it have been possible, under the world-conditions of 1921, to find the standard of poise and perspective required in their construction. Any other assumption, throughout these New Volumes, than that the terrible war of 1914–9 was won by those who had right and justice for their cause, would manifestly be impossible in the Encyclopædia Britannica; and historical justification for this belief is indeed given in the proper articles. On the other hand, many of the more violent criticisms of German action current during the war are now shown, in the Anglo-Saxon spirit of fair play, to have been exaggerated for “propaganda” purposes. Opinion on the incidents and issues of the war-period will probably continue to be revised by succeeding generations over and over again, as the weight of evidence, so much of it still undisclosed, increases; but a start is made here toward the acceptance of such conclusions as already represent a judicial view, expressed without favour or malice, free from any conscious bias, and backed by a presentation of the relevant facts on authority that is either admittedly unimpeachable or so far unchallenged. It was an integral part of the editorial policy to put aside any war-prejudice in inviting the assistance of contributors from among the nations which had fought against the Allies, so far as might be practicable without the intrusion of “propaganda,” especially for narratives of the domestic history of the enemy countries, about which so little information had penetrated outside during the war-period. The list of writers of ex-enemy nationality, and of the articles contributed by them, shows that a considerable section of the contents, including the military history of the war itself (to which British, American, French, Italian, Belgian, German, and Austro-Hungarian soldiers have contributed), is derived from such sources; and this fact alone gives these Volumes a special interest. Consistently with this policy, the Editor has encountered only very rare disappointments in carrying out his plan of obtaining the best contributors available from all foreign countries, including Germany and Austria, in order to provide the most authoritative information on their own affairs according to their own respective standpoints. In this connexion it will be noted that, for the first time in the history of the Britannica, the article on Japan is contributed by a Japanese. The Editor is glad here to acknowledge the help of the distinguished historian, Prof. A. F. Pribram, of Vienna, in organizing, with the collaboration of Dr. Redlich, the eminent Austrian jurist, the whole series of articles dealing with Austro-Hungarian subjects. He had also the valuable assistance of Mr. George Saunders, formerly The Times correspondent in Berlin, in obtaining the coöperation of German contributors and in supervising the translation and editing of their articles; while Mr. George Adam, The Times correspondent in Paris during 1913–9, performed the same function in respect of France. In the case of Russia, the Editor was fortunately able to rely on the great authority of Sir Paul Vinogradoff. The Editor’s thanks for useful advice and assistance with regard to the articles on other foreign countries are due to President Masaryk (Czechoslovakia), Prof. H. Pirenne, Rector of Ghent University (Belgium), Prof. L. V. Birck of Copenhagen (Denmark), Mons. M. Beza, of the Rumanian Legation in London (Rumania), Mons. D. Caclamanos, the Greek Minister in London (Greece), Mons. H. N. Bronmer, of the Netherlands Legation in London (Holland), Baron Alströmer, the Swedish Chargé d’Affaires in London (Sweden), and Mons. Erik Colbran, of the League of Nations.

So many individuals have, in one way or another, smoothed the Editor’s path, either by suggesting the best-qualified contributors or by giving helpful advice on the subject-matter of articles, that he can only make a rather arbitrary selection here in naming some of the more conspicuous. Practically every national Government, either directly or through its accredited representatives, has aided his attempt to give international authority to the New Volumes, by encouraging the use of its own sources of information; and British official coöperation, as also American, has been generously sanctioned and utilized. By the courtesy of the Naval Intelligence Department of the British Admiralty, the editorial staff had access to all the historical materials it had collected from various parts of the world for secret service during the war, including the handbooks of statistical and general information which had been privately printed by the Government for the use of British officers and political agents while the war was still in progress, and which were only partially “released” for publication afterwards. In this connexion acknowledgment may be made here, once for all, of the permission accorded by the Geographical Section of the British War Office (supplemented by that of the Controller of H.M. Stationery Office), and by the French Service Géographique de l’Armée, to reproduce British and French staff-maps, and also by the Librairie Militaire Berger-Lerrault, of Paris, to reproduce some of their maps of the battle areas. In different specialist spheres, the following acted as technical consultants: on Biology and Zoology, Dr. Chalmers Mitchell, secretary of the Zoölogical Society of London; on Botany, Prof. F. W. Keeble, of Oxford University; on Mathematics, Prof. G. H. Hardy, of Oxford University; on Aeronautics, Lt.-Col. Mervyn O’Gorman; on Medicine and Surgery, Dr. R. McNair Wilson; on Civil Engineering generally, Mr. H. M. Ross, editor of the Times Engineering Supplement; on Electrical Science and Engineering, Prof. J. A. Fleming, of University College, London. Each of the above was responsible for suggesting contributors on the subjects named, and assisted in coördinating their contributions. On military matters Maj. C. F. Atkinson acted for the Editor in obtaining the cooperation of a large number of expert advisers, at home and abroad, and he was responsible for organizing all the articles dealing with military history and equipment. On naval affairs useful advice was given by Rear-Adml. Sir W. Reginald Hall, M.P., and Rear-Adml. H. W. Richmond. Mr. Humbert Wolfe, of the British Ministry of Labour, and Mr. R. Page Arnot, of the unofficial Labour Research Department (the intelligence office of the British Labour movement), assisted, from different points of view, in planning the articles dealing with Labour developments, while valuable advice was received on their economic aspects from Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith and Mr. Sidney Webb. The Editor’s thanks are due to all these counsellors; and also to Lord Stamfordham, for material in connexion with the biographical article on King George V., to Sir Godfrey Thomas as regards that on the Prince of Wales, to Sir Hercules Read for suggestions as to the treatment of Archaeology, and especially to Lord Justice Sir William Younger and Lord Newton, jointly and severally, for their help in securing the undertaking, by their colleague Sir Reginald Acland, K.C., of the article on "Prisoners of War," which represents the first judicial review of the evidence officially taken by Sir William Younger's committee on that subject.

In crediting the editorial staff as a whole with a loyal fellowship which alone rendered possible, by the coöperation of its various departments, the production of the New Volumes in so short a time from their inception, the Editor-in-chief must express his warmest acknowledgment of the services of the three principal assistant-editors in London—Dr. Henry Newton Dickson, D.Sc., formerly professor of Geography at University College, Reading, and Literary Director of the Naval Intelligence Department of the Admiralty during the war; Professor Walter Alison Phillips, Lecky Professor of Modern History at Trinity College, Dublin (who was able to follow up his previous association with the Eleventh Edition, as principal assistant-editor, by devoting his vacations, and such other time as he could spare, to this work); and Mrs. W. L. Courtney (Janet E. Hogarth), who, with an efficient lieutenant in Mrs. Guy Chapman, was in charge of the work done by the ladies who formed part of the staff. Apart from a general participation in headquarters control, Dr. Dickson was especially concerned with the subject-matter of geography and statistics, and with the selection of maps and illustrations, Prof. Alison Phillips with political and constitutional history, and Mrs. Courtney with the biographical articles and those dealing with the Women's Movement, and with the making of the Index, which thus supplements the Index to the Eleventh Edition under the same guiding hand which had been responsible for the great Index to the main body of the work. As Editor's Secretary, keeping touch with all departments, Mr. Arthur Bollaert Atkins also resumed his former rôle, with an efficiency which was invaluable to the editorial organization. The New York branch of the editorial staff, under Mr. Franklin H. Hooper, as American Editor, with Mr. H. R. Haxton and Dr. G. C. Scoggin as his principal assistants, acted in concert throughout with the London office, more particularly in arranging for articles by American contributors or dealing with American affairs. The Editor-in-chief was assured before-hand of the sympathetic and experienced collaboration he enjoyed in this respect by the fact that his editorial association with Mr. F. H. Hooper for such purposes had already been continuous since the year 1900. In seeing the New Volumes finally through the press, he had the advantage of having the combined force of the British and American editorial staffs brought to bear on the critical revision of the work as a whole.

As architect both of the Eleventh Edition and of the superstructure which now converts it into the Twelfth Edition, it has been the present writer's privilege to be served by an international company of practical builders, supplying the world's best available materials and masonry; and he has been inspired by the ambition of cementing and adorning, in the completed edifice, that great movement for Anglo-American cooperation, on whose progress from strength to strength the recovery of civilization after the World War of 1914–9 must so largely depend.

HUGH CHISHOLM.

Christmas 1921.


  1. It may be noted here that, though bibliographical references, representing a selection of the most authoritative books or documents published since 1910, are plentifully made in the New Volumes, it was impossible, merely by way of supplement to the bibliographies attached to articles in the Eleventh Edition, to include them systematically, except in appropriate cases where this course was demanded by the nature of the supplementary articles. No attempt has been made, when otherwise there was no substantial reason for adding a supplementary article at all to the account given of a subject in the Eleventh Edition, to add a list of later books published about it. Nor, indeed, in the Editor’s judgment, would it have been in accordance with the objects of the Britannica to give the cachet of “authority” in this way to many contemporary publications which can hardly be said to have earned that title. The bibliographical references in the Britannica are especially valuable as critically directing the reader to the best sources, outside its own articles, for more detailed information; but the very nature of many of the articles in the New Volumes, as being the latest (or even the only available) authoritative accounts of purely contemporary developments, made it unnecessary—if indeed it would not be misleading—to direct the reader to comparatively ephemeral publications by less responsible writers.
  2. Reference by volume and page (e.g. "see 2.493") is accordingly made, as a rule immediately after the headings of articles in the New Volumes (but also elsewhere in their course, as seemed useful), to places in the earlier volumes where accounts of the same subjects, leading up to the point where the account is now resumed, may be found.