“We do respond very quickly and our editors have been up all night looking at this,” said Ian Grant, managing director of the company that publishes the world’s oldest encyclopaedia. “It’s important to get this thing right.”
A concise version of the Britannica first published seven years ago and used initially on hand-held devices has falsely described Ireland’s 1922-23 civil war as a fight between the Catholic south and Protestant north.
In reality, the civil war took place entirely south of the border, between two groups of Irish Catholic nationalists. The opposing sides were the fledgling army of the newly formed Irish Free State, which supported the Anglo-Irish treaty that created the state, and rebels who rejected it for failing to deliver full-fledged independence. The Irish Free State evolved over decades into today’s Republic of Ireland.
Students quickly spotted the glaring error after the Irish Department of Education struck a deal to provide the Britannica’s online version to all schools in the state. The contract costs a reported $625,000 a year for annual access to the encyclopedia and the publisher’s other online references.