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