In the business of chronicling events since 1931, Keesing has a well-earned reputation for a just-the-facts probity. This is where editors, journalists, book authors, speechwriters, and students repair when they have to know just exactly what happened-who the minister of youth was or how many died when an airplane went down. It was not always easy, however, searching through a large and imperfect index.
Now, in a major step forward, Keesing has made available much of its archive on a single CD-ROM. The figures are familiarly staggering: less than an ounce of plastic compresses ten feet of shelve space, thirty-five years of history, 660,000 individual records, and 15.5 million words. The later years also feature graphics and pop-ups. The result is stunningly useful: in seconds, the researcher can fact-check almost any event of consequence since the time when the United Arab Republic was in existence and David Ben-Gurion in office. Alternatively, he can use the archive to brush up on the basic facts of a crisis, such as the Lavon Affair or the Green March. This is a research tool of the first magnitude, with a price to match. One mild criticism concerns typos: no one checked the earlier years after they were scanned into the computer, and an unnecessary number of mistakes resulted.
The CD-ROM also offers intriguing quantitative insights. While Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and the Palestinians are all mentioned in roughly the same number of records (a low of 4,200 and a high of 5,700), Israel features in more than twice as many (11,400). Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar as-Sadat made the news far more than any other Middle Eastern rulers.