The editors of the Annual Register have announced the completion of the 2017 edition of the venerable, longest continuously run current affairs publication in the English language. Featuring facts and events that unfolded throughout 2016, this is the 258th volume in an unbroken sequence dating back to 1758.
Inhabiting a vital space between journalism and historical analysis, the Annual Register has been applauded over the centuries as providing an accessible but authoritative first take on history.
This 2017 volume joins the 258-year archive of the Annual Register, available in its entirety on the ProQuest platform. The flexibility of this format allows professors, students, researchers and general readers to search, annotate, cross-reference, and download information from the rich repository of material, which has informed and entertained for more than two-and-a-half centuries.
The 2017 edition of the Annual Register casts its unflinching eye upon the events of 2016. The year was marked – twice – by shocking results at the ballot box: the referendum decision by Britain to leave the EU and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. Both represented populist insurrections against establishment orthodoxy and its pursuit of globalisation, and both heralded a rise in nationalism, protectionism and opposition to immigration.
This trend was echoed by the consolidation of power elsewhere in the world by leaders such as Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Narendra Modi, and Rodrigo Duterte, all of whom appealed to a similarly nationalist agenda. It was the defining feature of a year in which global insecurity was also underlined by the continuing wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan; the ever-present threat of ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks in major cities; North Korea’s continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons; and the emergence of the Zika virus as a global health threat.
In addition to chronicling the year’s major world events, the Annual Register contains extracts from important contemporary documents, obituaries, and a profusion of lesser known facts that may have escaped the attention of mainstream media.
The Annual Register was a success from the outset. This was in part due to the abilities of its first editor, the great Anglo-Irish constitutionalist Edmund Burke. Although Burke was young and had yet to establish the full extent of his later reputation, he imprinted a unique style and authenticity upon the Annual Register.
In his preface to the inaugural 1758 volume, Burke acknowledged that his new publication was competing with other periodicals of the time that were attempting to cover similar ground. But he noted that the Annual Register had two distinct advantages over its competitors. One was its editorial aim not simply to produce a lively record of current affairs, but to create from them “one connected narrative”—though he noted ruefully that “to effect this from the broken and unconnected materials, has been a work of more labour than may at first appear.” The second advantage was that whereas its competitors were issued monthly, the Annual Register was produced yearly, thereby enabling it to use a greater perspective in assessing the historical significance of events that were in the process of unfolding.
It was this ability to provide not just focus but also context for events still white-hot from the forge of history that enabled the Annual Register to thrive long after its competitors had ceased to publish.
In its current form, the Annual Register has remained true to Burke’s original vision of providing authoritative contemporary history in a vivid and accessible format. But whereas Burke laboured on the project alone, today’s Annual Register is able to call upon a wide range of expert opinion.
The most recent volume contains contributions from 85 specialist authors, including renowned academics and journalists, former diplomats and professionals. They are based across a number of countries and bring to bear unique insights into developments within their particular fields.
The level of expertise provided by the Annual Register’s contributors enables the publication to record and analyse contemporary events with an unparalleled level of authority. In an age of “alternative facts,” “fake news” and competing streams of unverified information, the authority of the Annual Register’s content and analysis is as important as ever. But the publication’s editorial style has remained true to Burke’s original intention: to entertain as well as to inform.
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Image: ESA/Hubble and NASA