In the business of chronicling events since 1931, Kesing 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 mad 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 shelf space, 35 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.