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Detailed Historical Narratives of Events from 1758 to the Present Day
The Annual Register is a year-by-year record of British and world events, published annually since 1758. This classic reference work provides historians and students with informatin on the major and minor events of the past 265+ years, with historical context and perspective and a mass of biographical information. The Annual Register also provides the student, teacher, and researcher with key insights into contemporary 18th and 19th century attitudes towards the political and social events, issues, developments, and trials of the time.
"Not confined to a monthly publication, we have an opportunity of examining with care the products of the year, and selecting what many appear most deserving of notice. We have from the same cause the advantage of order; we are better able to rank the several kinds under their proper heads; at least with as much exactness as the nature of a miscellany will allow."
— Edmund Burke, Preface to the first volume of The Annual Register
The first volume of The Annual Register, published by Robert Dodsley and edited, anonymously, by Edmund Burke, was produced during the height of the Seven Years War, and the opening History section described the progress of that conflict from its origins to the end of the year 1758. A shorter Chronicle section then briefly summarized notable events during 1758. As well as being a record of events, The Annual Register was originally conceived as a miscellany, reproducing state papers, reviewing important books, and featuring historical sketches, poetry, observations on natural history, and other essays, reproduced from books and periodicals. The early volumes of The Annual Register continued to follow this format, with contributions ranging from an essay on taste by Montesquieu (1758, p.311) to a suggestion about making bread from turnips (1763, p.133). Although Burke was elected to parliament in 1765 and was a committed and prominent Whig, The Annual Register strove to remain non-partisan in its political coverage.
After the end of the war in 1763, the History section evolved to cover the past year’s developments more generally in Britain, its colonies, and mainland Europe. From 1775 its length was significantly increased, becoming the main focus of the publication. Burke apparently resigned the editorship in 1789; from that year until the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815 the History was primarily devoted to describing the French Revolution and the wars arising from it. After 1815 the usual form became a number of chapters on Britain, paying particular attention to the proceedings of Parliament, followed by chapters covering other countries in turn, no longer limited to Europe. The expansion of the History came at the expense of the sketches, reviews and other essays so that the nineteenth-century publication ceased to have the miscellaneous character of its eighteenth-century forebear, although poems continued to be included until 1862, and a small number of official papers and other important texts continue to be reproduced to this day.
From the 1920s, volumes of The Annual Register took the essential shape in which they have continued ever since, opening with the history of Britain, then a section on foreign history covering each country or region in turn. Following these are the chronicle of events, brief retrospectives on the year’s cultural and economic developments, a short selection of documents, and obituaries of eminent persons who died in the year.
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