Women Leaders: Rulers Throughout History and Founding Leaders: Shapers of Modern Nations. Tim O'Donnell, Managing Editor. ABC-CLIO CD-ROM, 1998. System Requirements: Windows 95, Windows 3.x, or Windows NT 4.0 (or higher), 486SX/33 MHz or faster processor, 16MB RAM, hard drive with at least 30MB free recommended, SVGA monitor (640 x 480, 256 colors), Windows-compatible mouse or pointing device, 2X CD-ROM drive.

Women Leaders CD-ROM.
From the ABC-CLIO Web site.
These two CD-ROMs contain nearly 700 biographies of world leaders and cover a vast geographic and historical range. They also represent the pluses and minuses of the CD-ROM format. On the plus side, their affordable price and ability to store large quantities of information should make them attractive to school libraries, and their content should provide a good introduction to a student research project. On the minus side, neither of these discs explains the criteria used to select the specific biographies, or who, in fact, selected and wrote the pieces. A click to "Credits" acknowledges Neil A. Hamilton's book Founders of Modern Nations along with several technical contributors for Founding Leaders. The same site in Women Leaders credits Guida M. Jackson, author of Women Who Ruled along with multiple technical contributors. Although each entry includes a brief bibliography, these are uneven and many are quite dated. The emphasis on technical rather than authorial credit is symbolic of both the strengths and weakness of these two CD-ROMs.

Founding Leaders CD-ROM.
From the ABC-CLIO Web site.

Both CD-ROMs are arranged similarly, with the home pages providing a variety of ways to research the historical figure including name, subject or attributes. A tool bar appears at the right of the screen with features such as a notebook that allow users to customize their searches, while incorporating text (but not maps or pictures). The maps by Magellan Geographic are good and are one of the most useful links the user might find. They situate the location in question both in a regional and global context. They, like the text, can be printed. The pictures of the biographical subjects cannot. Links are certainly a plus over book format in biographical dictionaries, and each of these CD-ROMs provides useful links for almost every entry. These links allow for context (both historical and geographic) and glossary help. Nevertheless, the terms and definitions of a glossary are only as good as the author who writes them. Limiting the term "diaspora," for example, in Founding Leaders to the Jewish experience is misleading. The subject index for Women Leaders, while it gives some more insight into who is included, is not too helpful for users searching for women with particular experiences or connections. For example, there are no listings for "feminist," "communist," or "socialist," three possible categories that a researcher may consider. The users can, however, connect with many "saints." Meanwhile, the Text Search that Women Leaders provides is much better than the Subject and Attribute Searches, and is one way of getting around the somewhat arbitrary subject categories.

Jomo Kenyatta. From Founding Leaders.
A strong plus in each of these CD-ROMs is the variety of their entries. Among Founding Leaders are Michael Manley (Jamaica), Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Vaclav Havel (Czech Republic), George Cadle Price (Belize), Milan Kucan (Slovenia) and George Washington (USA). These leaders fit the collection's title of either "founding leaders" or "shapers of modern nations." One could also agree with the inclusion of Henry VIII of England (who shares billing with separate entries on Henry VII and Elizabeth I), but it is unclear why Franklin D. Roosevelt was included. Certainly he changes the nature of the role of the US government in the twentieth century, but so too does Stalin for the USSR, and he is not included.

A sample of categorical listings. From the ABC-CLIO Women Leaders CD-ROM.

There are similar problems with choices in Women Leaders, but here the editors let themselves off the hook by being incredibly inclusive. As explained in their credits, the women included in this collection are: "female rulers, de facto rulers, and constitutional monarchs of the world's kingdoms, empires, nations, islands, and tribes since the beginning of recorded history. Included are women who have risen to power behind the throne, in addition to some rulers who are more legendary than historical." The word "ruler" seems to be key here, thus excusing the omission of Joan of Arc or Petra Kelly. Such an editorial statement would have strengthened Founding Leaders.

Again, this would be less of an issue if the CD-ROM had a preface or editors' note explaining the choice of content, and, perhaps, audience. There is a danger in our increasingly technological world that we focus on the technology at the expense of the authors and the ideas. This is not only a point of criticism, but in this case, a point of praise, because the number and choices of selections in each of these discs is quite remarkable. Whoever collected these biographical entries, which represent the obscure as well as the famous, did a good job.

These CD-ROMs would be particularly apt for middle and high school students. The variety of entries should make browsing fun, and the links appear aimed at their level. A recent article in Library Journal (November 15, 1998) makes problematic the future of CD-ROMs with the increasing wiring of schools to the Internet. For the short run, however, Founding Leaders and Women Rulers offer an easily accessed biographical reference and a good beginning for a research project.

Linda Kelly Alkana
California State University, Long Beach

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CD-ROM Review of ABC-CLIO Women Leaders: Rulers Throughout History and
Founding Leaders: Shapers of Modern Nations
Copyright © 1999 by The Journal for MultiMedia History

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