History for Everyone/Historia para todos: Ancient History Encyclopedia

James Blake Wiener (james.wiener@ancient.eu), Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) y Gimena del Rio Riande (gdelrio@conicet.gov.ar), IIBICRIT, CONICET

The most important publication to emerge from 18
th-century Europe was arguably the
Encyclopedia by Denis Diderot (1713-1784 CE). The
Encyclopedia sought to “change the general way of thinking,” challenging all forms of bigotry, repression, fanaticism, and misinformation (Fowler, 2011). Through his commission of articles on a variety of topics, Diderot endeavored to summarize and disseminate the world’s information in order to help human society progress to new heights of accomplishment while also mitigating the sufferings of civilization. Helped by the mathematician Jean Le Rond d’Alembert (1717-1783) as well as Montesquieu (1689-1755 CE) and Voltaire (1694-1778), Diderot’s
Encyclopedia was very much a collaborative project, which reflected the “party of humanity” in a new age of international and informational exchange (Micale and Dietle, 2000).

Ancient History Encyclopedia (

) was founded in 2009, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, with the mission to improve education through the creation of the most complete, freely accessible, and reliable online, historical resource in the world. As scholars and supporters of the digital humanities, the contributors at Ancient History Encyclopedia felt a responsibility to construct a site in which users not only found what they were looking for, but also one which stressed the importance of global cultural heritage and world history. Our knowledge and interpretation of history shapes how we define ourselves as nations and as cultures, and it influences how we see other cultures as well. Whether through its interactive map of the ancient world, online videos, or its carefully curated articles and definitions, Ancient History Encyclopedia digitally imparts knowledge in new and creative ways.

Before Ancient History Encyclopedia’s inception, most of what was available online pertaining to ancient history was scattered across various websites, illegible due to poor presentations, targeted exclusively at academic audiences and hidden behind paywalls, or tainted by a distinct nationalistic agendas. While Wikipedia undeniably advanced and pushed the aims of the Open Access movement, it sometimes remains riddled with inaccuracies and occasional bias. Omnipresent too is the lack of available content in major world languages like Spanish, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, and Hindi. Other sites, like La guía de historia (

), do not afford proper attributions to sources and lack curated multimedia libraries of pictures, videos, and other interactive learning tools. Over the last two decades, open access publishing has become increasingly widespread with the help of the Internet. The Open Access movement helps researchers, students, and educators access the latest research and data without restrictions. It is a movement defined by high standards, the exchange of information, the development and synchronization of models, and the promotion of innovation in technology and research methodology.

Through a shared commitment to Open Access Education, Ancient History Encyclopedia and its partners create interactive tools that facilitate historical and media literacy, build models of data exchange, and serve a broader community rather than solely those in academia. In this sense, Ancient History Encyclopedia is acting in unison with the principles of Open Access, Open Education, and Open Research. These are positive developments, but it is not nearly enough: historians, researchers, publishers, museums, and other institutional bodies must move beyond the paradigm of simply making it free or available only in English. Ancient History Encyclopedia is an international project with contributors from Germany, the United States, Hungary, India, Argentina, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Through Ancient History Encyclopedia’s collaborations with other digital humanities projects and organizations, including the Pelagios Commons, Europeana’s Eagle Project on ancient Roman epigraphy, Humanidades Digitales del Centro Argentino de Información Científica y Tecnológica (HD CAICYT-CONICET), and Laboratorio de Innovacíón en Humanidades Digitales at Madrid’s Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (LINHD-UNED), Ancient History Encyclopedia has aided in making important academic research and datasets available and digestible to Anglophone audiences.

In this poster, Ancient History Encyclopedia and Humanidades Digitales CAICYT-CONICET (

) review Ancient History Encyclopedia’s encyclopedic model and successes, while also sharing plans for future projects that will include the translation and publication texts at CAICYT and the joint use of map data from Pelagios Commons (


Appendix A

  1. Fowler, J. (2011). New essays on Diderot. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Micale, M. S., and Dietle, R. L. (2000). Enlightenment, Passion, Modernity. Historical Essays in European Thought and Culture. Redwood City: Stanford University Press.

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