days, when there are Republicans both in the White House and in the
majority in Congress, it may be a relief for diehard Democrats to
know that there is a resource to turn to: Peter Levy's Encyclopedia
of the Clinton Presidency. The articles in this new encyclopedia
cover many major people, issues, scandals, and events central to President
Bill Clinton's administration (1992-2000).
to provide a beginning researcher with a ready reference and recommendations
for further reading on important issues and actions that relate to
Clinton's term of office. The Encyclopedia of the Clinton Presidency
would be a useful starting point for high school or undergraduate
student research on important news items from this time period.
In his introduction,
Levy (an associate professor of history and political science at York
College) makes clear his desire to provide a balanced view of the
often-controversial Clinton presidency. However, he follows these
idealistic claims with an anecdote about attending a Clinton-Gore
rally with his children in 1992. It is also notable that Levy makes
a long list of the former president's positive accomplishments (such
as his international diplomatic efforts and the budget surplus) before
the author dares to mention the word "impeachment." The
simple fact that Levy (who is the sole author of this book) chose
to compile an encyclopedia on Clintonalia should tip off the discriminating
reader to the fact that this is essentially a biased work. To be fair,
it is possible that Levy is interested in modern American politics
in general, since he has completed an encyclopedia on the Reagan-Bush
administration as well.
the Encyclopedia would be a useful research starting point
for a student of history or political science. Entries range from
major figures in the Clinton administration, such as Al Gore and Janet
Reno; to issues Clinton addressed, such as healthcare reform and partial-birth
abortions; as well as major places Clinton worked for diplomacy in,
such as the Middle East and Northern Ireland. Levy attempts to present
a balanced view of Clinton's presidency by also including scandal-laden
issues and people such as "Whitewater," "Vince Foster"
(including the allegations that Clinton was somehow involved in Foster's
death), and by allotting separate entries to all the women with whom
Clinton allegedly had extra-martial relations.
themselves are short essays (two to three paragraphs) on the topic.
If the entry is about a person, then it includes birth and death dates
(if applicable) and biographical information insofar as it pertains
to the person's interaction with Clinton. Events, issues, people,
or places that played a major role during the Clinton presidency are
expanded upon, such as the entries on Monica Lewinsky and the economic
boom of the 1990s.
of the Clinton Presidency is divided up simply into the encyclopedia
itself, a supplemental timeline, and the index. Compared to other
larger, more general reference works, the main body of the encyclopedia
has few entries (typically about 10-25 per letter of the alphabet)
and lists all of the articles alphabetically; therefore it is easier
to search for terms or just scan for items of interest. The timeline
lists the chronology of the events covered in the articles and helps
to put the articles into an historical context, as is appropriate
for a historical encyclopedia.
The index is a typical alphabetical listing of terms with page number,
and contains no further subcategories such as subject, person, place,
and so on. This straightforward indexing method is less overwhelming
in a smaller encyclopedia that covers fewer terms like this one does,
since the reader can open the index and easily glance over the whole
lists for one or two letters on one page. It is also worth noting
that index terms that are also article titles are distinguished by
bold page numbers, so the reader knows immediately if a term is merely
mentioned in an article, or was deemed important enough to warrant
an article of its own.
A useful feature
of this encyclopedia is the way cross-referencing is handled. For
example, the entry entitled "Budget Surplus" discusses the
fact that the surplus affected Clinton's approval ratings. The term
"approval ratings" is printed in bold within the article,
which easily alerts the reader to the fact that there is an entry
on this topic also. Similarly, there are related terms listed at the
end of many articles. For example, the "Paula Jones" entry
suggests that the reader should also refer to the "Women"
entry. Also notable is that at the end of many entries there is a
list of on-topic resources, usually journal articles or webpage URLs,
enhancing the usefulness of the Encyclopedia as a starting
point for research. However, these extra references left me wondering
if they were sources for the entry, or just for further reference.
As I have already
mentioned, the Encyclopedia is pretty small (416 pages), as
might be expected for such a specific subject, and also includes many
photographs and tables. These aspects, combined with the easy-to-use
cross-reference system, make this book friendly and unintimidating
for the beginning researcher.
of the Clinton Presidency is an enjoyable flip-through for the
pop culture or political junkie, who will enjoy the entries on "Lewinsky,
Monica," and "Pets, Socks and Buddy." Unintentionally,
perhaps, the Encyclopedia is also a snapshot of popular political
issues in the 1990s such as affirmative action, Waco, and NAFTA. However,
Levy's Encyclopedia has the most value as a resource for students
to comb for paper ideas or quick definitions of issues relating to