- The World History Highway: A Guide to Internet Resources
Navigating the Web is a treacherous activity (as well as a mixed metaphor) during which even the most erudite scholar may need a good road map to avoid the potholes and dead ends of the information superhighway. Quite a market has emerged to help fill this need, with books covering a wide range of subjects, from the best Star Wars Web sites (The Incredible Internet Guide to Star Wars by Peter J. Weber) to gardening (Everything for the Garden: Website Guide by Brian Cotton). However, not all of these books are of value or even helpful. Every book covering the Internet/Web eventually runs into one of three problems: they tend to go out of date fairly quickly due to the ephemeral nature of Web sites; they do not allow for immediate access to the Web sites being described; and they do not explain how to deal with the enormous amount of information on the Web (i.e., do the compilers cover as many Web sites as possible or only highlight the best ones?). Any book claiming to offer a guided tour of the Web needs to be judged on how well it can overcome these obstacles.
The World History Highway: A Guide to Internet Resources attempts to overcome these problems in several ways, and it mostly succeeds (as we shall see). As an aid for students who are lost or for scholars looking for resources they might not otherwise know about or even for interested history buffs, this guide to history-related Web sites works very well and makes more sense than most Web guides on the market. Hundreds of Web sites are covered, neatly broken down into carefully organized categories, including "General History," "Canadian History," "Historiography," and "Modern Military History." Many of the larger categories, such as "United States History" and "European History," are broken down even further into more manageable subcategories such as the Civil War or Irish history.
Beyond all that, the editors include some nice (if a bit general) introductory essays on the history of the Internet and the World Wide Web. These essays also give helpful advice on how to use a search engine, how to evaluate the content of a Web site, and general "netiquette" (Internet etiquette). Mercifully, this section spans only a few pages, leaving plenty of room in the rest of the book for the [End Page 109] cataloging and description of Web sites that might be of interest to history buffs and scholars.
The descriptions are brief, often no more than a sentence or two. For example, the entry on the Web site Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System on page 302 reads: "This Project is an attempt to build a database of basic information about all those who served in the war." The description for the Historical Text Archive Web page on page 445 has a bit more: "This site is divided into two sections: articles, books, documents, and photographs, and Web Links to other sites. Organized by geographical and topical subject headings, sites focus on the studying and teaching of history." While these descriptions give enough information to allow readers to make decisions on whether any given Web site might assist with their research, it would help if the blurbs included just a little more information, such as if the Web sites tend toward scholarship or popularization.
To combat the problem of being unable to immediately access the Web sites in question, the publishers have wisely included a CD-ROM that contains the book's entire contents as a PDF file, with hyperlinks to every site in the book. An immensely useful tool, the CD-ROM oddly renders the physical book unnecessary. Because it contains all of the text of the book and allows readers to immediately go to the Web site in question and see if the site is what they might be looking for in their research, it raises...