Start Here 5

STEP FIVE – Sources

This website and the book it is based on would have been almost impossible to research if it had not been for the internet. It was necessary to review all major events between certain set dates – hence the source had to be comprehensive and it had to be as accurate and as easily accessible as possible. Of course though the internet has many advantages of accessibility, speed and convenience it also has some significant drawbacks. Not only can history or news sites get historical events and/or the dates on which they occur wrong – but that mistake can be copied within weeks by many hundreds of other sites. So certain precautions have been taken. The majority of the data in the book has come off one of 3 active, relatively permanent and reliable sites : (and its database search sister site Timelines.db).

The site run by Algis Ratnikas offers a comprehensive coverage of history for each country (Afghanistan through to Zimbabwe) and each period from the Big Bang through to within 2 months of the current date. It sources its contemporary data from major news agencies such as Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Presse and BBC News as well as North American and UK newspapers. Most of the historical data preceding the 21st Century has been drawn from this site. The site underwent a transition to being advertising supported but it is hoped that its unique navigability and ease of use will not be impaired.

BBC News is the world’s largest broadcast news organisation. The service maintains 44 foreign news bureaux and has correspondents in almost every country. It has 3,500 staff, 2,000 of whom are journalists. BBC News Online is the most viewed broadcaster website outside the USA. It has a highly adaptive, navigable and comprehensive search engine for any BBC news reports since November 1997. The BBC’s coverage could occasionally be criticised as selective but there are few if any news organisations so widely respected for thoroughness and accuracy.

BBC Online News does not maintain previous days’ editions. Fortunately Matthew Somerville’s archive site of every edition of every day’s output of BBC News Online since July 2005 is still available. This comprehensive and highly navigable site enables you to search any day’s BBC News Front page stories – there can be up to 150 different front pages in 24 hours ! There are sophisticated search modes – such as by category of headline and by unique story timeline.

The internet’s leading reference site despite its huge success and mushrooming topic coverage has been criticised on many counts – the accuracy of its information, the quality of its writing, systemic bias in its coverage and its editing rules. Yet by 2010 it is our judgement that, at the level of research this site focuses on, Wikipedia has become highly reliable. It has especially been used for research on human conflict – wars, genocides and terrorism – along with science and technology. The categorisation and the summary references within these fields appear to be of a high quality – and where they are not editorial caution is now expressed which earlier may not have been the case

Numerous other sites have of course been consulted – but in all cases care has been taken to ensure the information is reliable and in most cases alternative verification of dates has been looked for. There are so many sites consulted that it would be impractical to list them but in many cases typing the exact text about an historical event cited into a browser will yield a link to that source. The main problem however with citing a webpage is that the site may have closed or its content have been changed. Recent tests show well over 25% of supportive site references used have been deleted or changed.