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Letter from the Editor

Welcome to an entirely online, digital research encyclopedia that ultimately will cover the entire sweep of American history. Its essays will be based on the latest, most persuasive research and will incorporate visual and sound materials and links to original sources that could not be included in traditional printed encyclopedia.

Essay authors will be professional historians, independent as well as faculty members at institutions around the world, whose contributions will be reviewed for accuracy and imagination by a fifteen-member editorial board of distinguished American historians. ORE of American History will be a dynamic and continually expanding encyclopedia. Our goal is to establish it as the most comprehensive and vibrant encyclopedia ever published in American history, a model for encyclopedias in the new digital age.

The clear, compelling mission of the ORE of American History is simple: to create a comprehensive, innovative, and scholarly online resource in American history available to everyone in the world with internet access. The ORE of American History will change as it progresses, keeping up with new scholarship and expanding yearly with new essays on topics of previously unrealized importance. Authors will be able to modify and enlarge essays as new sources and methods change the way history can be written. In short, the ORE of American History intends to be a dynamic encyclopedia reflecting how the best scholarship and research — as much in history as in the sciences and social sciences — profits through new methods and new modes of inquiry, enlarging our understanding of past and present alike.

The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History will visibly illustrate the depth with which an internet-based encyclopedia can explore fascinating aspects of America's past. It will include links to visual and primary source materials that will help readers grasp the realities of the American past. For example, an essay on the lure of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century New York City might well include the vibrant painting of the Neapolitan immigrant Joseph Stella, Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras (1913), to illustrate how an immigrant artist portrayed his experience of this magical American wonderland, or a link to the 1903 Thomas Edison film Rube and Mandy at Coney Island, to illustrate the ways in which Coney Island exemplified big-city excitement in a period of rapid urbanization.

In a much different vein, an essay on revivalism in eighteenth-century New England could link to the complete text of Jonathan Edwards's famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (1741), while an essay on twentieth-century revivalism or modern-California history might link to a digital exhibit on the ways in which American evangelist Billy Graham invoked Edwards's sermon during his 1949 Los Angeles crusade, featuring  articles about Graham's theology and the ways Graham changed and omitted some of Edwards's wording as he preached.

Authors and editors will work together to produce entries that are stimulating, sometimes controversial, and always based on the very best scholarship. Essays will offer comprehensive views of a subject, and most also will engage readers by explaining how scholarship often shifts our knowledge of events and circumstances, such as slavery and the causes of the Civil War. Some topics will feature debates by two or three historians about the most useful ways to understand subjects, always seeking to help readers understand the basic parameters and features of a subject, demonstrating how modes of thinking open up subjects, all toward the ultimate goal of developing a reader's clarity on a topic and illustrating paths to deeper knowledge.

Put simply, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History intends to be the single best-used resource available to all students of the American past.

Jon Butler
Editor in Chief