At The University of Southern Mississippi, many things go on every day that have a significant impact worldwide. One of these things is the editing of the “Political Handbook of the World,” a nearly 2,000-page tome that weighs in at over six pounds.
The book is more than simply a Texas-sized monstrosity, however. It features a vast quantity of information regarding the political parties and organizations – both major and minor – in over 200 different countries and territories around the world, as well as entries on various intergovernmental organizations like NATO and the U.N.
The guide was declared “the best of its kind” by the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a highly regarded nonpartisan think tank devoted to foreign policy and politics.
The man in charge of this editing process is Tom Lansford, a professor of political science who was the academic dean at the Gulf Coast campus for many years.
“The Handbook provides the most comprehensive overview of the political and governmental systems of all of the countries and territories of the world,” Lansford said.
Lansford first got involved with the guide in 2004, when he joined the team that composes it as an associate editor.
Originally in charge of only a cluster of countries in Europe and Africa, his responsibilities steadily increased, until he became co-editor in 2013 and finally sole editor in 2014.
Lansford described the process of putting the renowned volume together. Each edition takes about nine months to be assembled, with the entries being assigned to various contributors in May and the final deadline being in November, when the copyediting process starts.
There are, however, rolling deadlines for each entry to ensure that each one is up to date, with the most current election results or coup information included.
Contributors will update entries throughout the entire process in response to sudden political changes. The editor in charge of Yemen is likely scrambling to update his entry right now. The final editing is then completed in late January or February.
Celsey Shaddox, a senior political science major, found it interesting that the man in charge of this valuable resource is a member of the Southern Miss faculty.
“The fact that a Southern Miss professor is directly involved with something that is so imposing and important is a great step for not just the university, but the state of Mississippi as well,” she said.
“(Sometimes) it seems like Mississippi tends to get nothing but bad press, but for us to have such an influential hand directly related to large-scale politics is fantastic.”