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History can be defined as the study of the nature of the human past. It utilizes evidence in the form of primary sources and interprets it in a variety of ways. This guide to library resources for history covers some basic guides, reference books, and indexes to the literature of the field. There are some suggestions, also, on where to find primary source material and electronic texts using Internet. It is a field with a vast and proliferating reference literature; don't hesitate to ask a librarian for suggestions if this guide doesn't cover what you need.
Table of Contents:
Indexes and Databases
For more information and additional suggestions, visit the Databases Guide for History.
- Academic Search Premier
The world's largest academic multi-disciplinary database, Academic Search Premier indexes nearly 8,050 publications and provides full text for nearly 4,600, including more than 3,500 peer-reviewed journals. Coverage also includes many newspapers and popular magazines and spans virtually every area of academic study since 1975. Updated daily. Access is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM). View our Academic Search Premier tutorial.
- America: History and Life
Indexes literature related to the history of the United States and Canada from prehistorical times to the present. This extensive database covers over 2,000 journals published worldwide including all key English-language historical journals, selected historical journals from major countries, and state and local history journals, as well as books, dissertations and book reviews.
Thousands of libraries, museums, and archives have contributed nearly a million collection descriptions to ArchiveGrid. Researchers searching ArchiveGrid can learn about the many items in each of these collections -- from historical documents, to personal papers, to family histories. Researchers can contact archives to arrange a visit to examine materials, and in some cases, order copies. Access is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM).
- Medieval Sources Online
Medieval Sources Online is a web-based learning resource containing hundreds of original medieval history documents compiled for the teaching and study of history.
- Sabin Americana, 1500-1926
Sabin Americana, 1500-1926 makes available online works captured from Joseph Sabinís bibliography, Bibliotheca Americana: A Dictionary of Books Relating to America from Its Discovery to the Present Time. It contains information about North, Central and South America, the Arctic and Antarctica and the West Indies. This resource offers original accounts of exploration, pioneering, settlement, the western movement, military actions, Native Americans, slavery and abolition. It provides access to 33,000 titles, with over 8 million pages of text. Users can search among or within specific works, view the results of full-text searches on facsimile pages from the original works, save lists of results, specific pages or works, e-mail citations for selected works, print and download portions of the works themselves.
- Web of Science (Web of Knowledge)
http://gacproxy.mnpals.net/login?url=http://webofknowledge.com/http://webofknowledge.com/?DestApp=WOS&editions=SCI SSCI AHCI ISTP ISSHP
The Science Citation Index Expanded, the Social Sciences Citation Index, and the Arts & Humanities Citation Index of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). Besides indexing a wide range of journals in the sciences, social sciences, and history, this resource allows you to search for articles that cite a specific author or published work. Coverage from 1997 to the present. Click on the "Web of Science" tab to limit your search to one or more specific citation databases.
- Bibliographies and Guides to reserach in the field
- American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature
2 vols. An exhaustive bibliography of the most important research on the subject, arranged by topic, with annotations.
Location(s): Ref E 183.7 .A54 2003
- American Historical Association Guide to Historical Literature
Offers 27,000 citations to important historical literature, arranged in 48 sections covering theory, international history, and regional history. An indispensable guide; note it doesn't include the most recently published scholarship.
Location(s): Ref D 20 .A54 1995
- General and World History
- Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean
3 vols. Lengthy articles on such topics as "Language and Dialects," "Farming and Animal Husbandry," "Myths and Cosmologies," "Women in Rome," and "Roman Building Techniques" introduce the reader in some depth to many facets of the classical world. Each article is followed by a helpful bibliography.
[Resource no longer available]
- Civilizations of the Ancient Near East
Essays on the culture and history of Egypt, Syro-Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia. Includes some coverage of the Arabian peninsula, northeast Africa, and Aegean and Anatolian cultures. Provides excellent background papers on culture and society, with extensive bibliographies.
Location(s): Ref DS57 C.547 2000
- Colonialism: An International Social, Cultural, and Political Encyclopedia
3 vols. An interdisciplinary approach to "cultural concepts and intellectual ideas crucial to an understanding of colonialism in the modern world." Covers key geographical and cultural concepts, as well as significant individuals, movements, and events. A number of primary source documents are included in the third volume.
Location(s): Ref JV 22 .C65 2003
- Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine
A trove of information and insights into the history of the field. Includes essays on body systems and how they have been perceived through time, theories of illness, including history of specific diseases and their treatments, geographical essays, clinical history, and medicine in society and culture.
Location(s): Ref R 133 .C66 1993
- Dictionary of Historical Terms
Covers a wide variety of terms--events, places, institutions, and topics--in history for all periods and places in a remarkably small package. A good place to quickly identify terms in the field.
Location(s): Ref D9 .C67 1990
- Dictionary of British History
A compact companion to British history from 55 BC to the present, offering 3,600 entries contributed by over 100 scholars. Good for quick information.
Location(s): Ref DA34 .D49 2001
- Dictionary of Contemporary World History
In-depth coverage of the major historical figures and events from 1900 to the present day, including surveys of countries.
- Dictionary of the Middle Ages
13 vols. A scholarly, readable, and beautifully laid-out encyclopedia covering people, events, ideas, movements, texts, and cultural features of the medieval world. Articles are often illustrated with period art work and are followed by bibliographies of primary and secondary sources.
Location(s): Ref D 114 .D5 1982
- Dictionary of World History
Includes over 4,000 entries on people, religious and political movements, international organizations, and places.
- Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe from the Congress of Vienna to the Fall of Communism
Offers long essays on the countries and regions of Eastern Europe as well as shorter entries on history, geography, culture, concepts, and prominent figures.
Location(s): Ref DJK 6 .E53 2000
- Encyclopedia of European Social History from 1350 to 2000
6 vols. Offers substantial, well-documented survey essays on topics such as social change, urban and rural life, gender, popular culture, religion, and everyday life.
Location(s): Ref HN373 .E63 2001
- Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture
The 5,000+ articles in this resource give a remarkably complete overview of current knowledge about the region. Entries are arranged alphabetically by country, by topic (such as slavery, art, Asians in Latin America), and biographically. Articles are written by experts and are followed by selective bibliographies.
Location(s): Ref F 1406 .E53 2008
- Encyclopedia of Russian History
Offers succinct but scholarly articles on events, cultural developments, ethnic groups, economic issues, organizations, prominent historical figures, and issues in Russian history.
Location(s): Ref DK 14 .E53 2004 (4 vols.)
- Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment
Offers a broad range of entries about individuals and concepts related to the Enlightenment in Europe and America.
Location(s): Ref B 802 .E53 2002 (4 vols.)
- Encyclopedia of the Holocaust
Offers lengthy articles on topics, each followed by a selective bibliography of useful sources. Covers people, places, events, and concepts.
Location(s): Ref D 804.3 .E53 1990 (4 vols.)
- Encyclopedia of the Renaissance
Covers nearly 1,200 cultural and historical topics relating to Europe from 1350 to the early seventeenth century.
Location(s): Ref CB 361 .E52 1999 (6 vols.)
- Encyclopedia of World War I
Location(s): Ref D510 .E53 2005 (5 vols.)
- Encyclopedia of World War II: A Political, Social, and Military History
These two specialized encyclopedias offer articles on a variety of topics related to the two world wars.
Location(s): Ref D 740 .E516 2005 (5 vols.)
- New Dictionary of the History of Ideas
Covers a wide range of ideas historically and internationally. Particularly strong for overviews of current ideas taken in historical context, listing essential and significant texts that contributed to the development of concepts.
Location(s): Ref CB 9 .N49 2005
- Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History
Offers nearly 900 essays on issues in the field, from multiple perspectives including interdisciplinary approaches and global coverage. Entries cover broad topics such as "property rights" and "social mobility," significant figures, countries, industries, and technical terms.
Location(s): Ref HC 15 .O94 2003 (5 vols.)
- Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation
Covers people, places, events, documents, and ideas relevant to the Reformation in lengthy, scholarly articles. Each reflects current research and interpretation and is followed by a selective bibliography.
Location(s): Ref BR 302.8 .O93 1996 (4 vols.)
- Dictionary of American History
An encyclopedia of political, cultural, social, economic, and military history in the United States. The ninth volume contains historical maps and primary documents.
Location(s): Ref E 174 .D52 2003 (9 vols.)
- Encyclopedia Latina: History, Culture, and Society in the United States
Covers Latinos in the United states in over 650 essays that tackle topics from baseball to Zorro, significant places, groups of people, event, and more. The fourth volume includes significant primary source documents.
Location(s): Ref E 184 .S75 E587 2005
- Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: the Black Experience in the Americas
A wide-ranging encyclopedia covering people, places, events, concepts, and topics of all sorts. Articles are written by specialists and have useful bibliographies.
Location(s): Ref E 185 .E54 2006
- Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History
Provides in-depth articles on American thought and culture. Topics covered include historical approaches, cultural groups, major cultural regions, and political thought.
Location(s): Ref E 169 .E624 2001 (3 vols.)
- Encyclopedia of American Social History
Filling in the holes left in conventional political/biographical history sources, this set covers topics such as religion, class, gender, race, popular culture, regionalism, and everyday life from pre-Columbian to modern times in lengthy and well-documented articles.
Location(s): Ref HN 57 .E58 1993 (3 vols.)
- Encyclopedia of American Social Movements
Organized by topic rather than alphabetically, this set covers the antislavery movement, civil rights, the women's movement, labor, Native American, religious and Utopian, antiwar and student movements, LGBT, environmental, and global justice movements, each with in-depth chronological coverage and analysis.
Location(s): Ref HN 57 .E594 2004
- Encyclopedia of American Studies
Published under the auspices of the American Studies Association, this est covers concepts key to the interdisciplinary field, issues related to class, race and ethnicity, cultural institutions, popular culture, social history and more.
Location(s): Ref E 169.1 .E625 2001 (4 vols.)
- Encyclopedia of the American Civil War
Subtitled "A Political, Social, and Military History," this source attempts to "fashion a comprehensive source for a boundless subject." It offers over 1,600 articles on topics related to the war and its context, events leading up to the war and its consequences. There is a special section devoted to primary sources, as well as photographs, drawings, and maps.
Location(s): Ref E 468 .H47 2000 (5 vols.)
- Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War
Covers the causes and results of the American Revolution in over 900 articles addressing people, events, organizations, and key ideas.
Location(s): Ref E 208 .E64 2006 (5 vols.)
- Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century
Covers major ideas and issues in American social, political, and military history with articles as specific as "The Chinese Exclusion Act" and as broad as "Domestic Life."
Location(s): Ref E 169.1 .E626 2001 (3 vols.)
- Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century
An ambitious survey of American cultural, social and intellectual history in broad articles arranged topically. Each essay/article is followed by a thorough and very useful bibliography for further research.
Location(s): Ref E740.7 .E53 1996 (4 vols.)
- Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures
Solid, scholarly articles on a part of the world that has been the site of significant cultural developments in archaeology, history and the arts.
Location(s): Ref F 1218.6 .O95 2001
- St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture
A compendium of short articles on figures and ideas that were a common part of the American experience in the twentieth century.
Location(s): Ref E 169.1 .S764 2000 (5 vols.)
- American National Biography
Offers over 17,000 scholarly biographical sketches of significant Americans who died before 1996. The definitive source for American biography.
Location(s): Ref CT 213 .A68 1999 (24 vols + suppl)
- Black Women in America
A scholarly compilation of biographical and topical articles covering key issues and the lives of women, celebrated and unknown, constituting a definitive history of African American women and their experience in America. Bibliographies are provided at the end of articles to lead the researcher to further sources, both primary and secondary.
Location(s): Ref E 185.86 .B542 2005 (3 vols.)
- Women in World History
A biographical encyclopedia offering entries on 10,000 women from around the world. Includes indexes by era, geography, occupation, and name.
Location(s): Ref HQ1115 .W6 1999 (17 vols.)
- American Decades
Presents social and cultural history in ten-year periods, covering the arts, business, fashion, law, medicine, religion, and more.
Location(s): Ref E 169.12 .A419 1994 (10 vols.)
- Chronology of World History
Year-by-year world coverage of politics, science, the arts, and society in four volumes.
Location(s): Ref D11 .M39 1999 (4 vols.)
- Atlas of Ancient America
Covers North, South, and Mezoamerican pre-Columbia history in text, maps and chronologies, with many photos art objects, and plans of archaeological sites.
Location(s): Ref E 61.C66 1986
- Time's Atlas of World History
Geographic representations of historical periods and movements. Over 600 maps show changes and various perspectives on periods from prehistoric human life to the recent past. Supplemented by explanations and discussions of each period depicted.
Location(s): Ref Atlases G 1030 .T54 1993
- International Historical Statistics: Africa, Asia, and Oceania
Offers a wide variety of comparative historical statistics on population, labor force, agriculture, industry, trade, transport and communications, finance, rices, education, and national accounts.
Location(s): Ref HA 4675 .M55 2007
- International Historical Statistics: The Americas
Comparative historical statistics for North and South America.
Location(s): Ref HA 175 .M55 2007
- International Historical Statistics: Europe
Comparative historical statistics for Europe.
Location(s): Ref HA 1107 .M55 2007
Browsing for Books
- Historical Statistics of the United States: earliest times to the present
Revised update to Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970, Bicentennial ed. Washington U.S. Dept. of Commerce:GPO
Includes bibliographic references and index,illustrated with maps, updates previous publishing with U.S. Census 2000 data.
Location(s): Ref HA 202 .H57 2006 (5 vols.)
Books are shelved in general subject categories using the Library of Congress classification system. You may want to supplement your use of the catalog with browsing shelf areas for your topic. Below is a brief listing of some of the subject locations in the field of history.
- CB History of civilization
- CC Archaeology
- D History (General)
- 51-95 Ancient
- 111-203 Medieval
- 204-475 Modern
- 501-838 World War I,II
- 839-850 Post-War history 1945-
- 901-1075 Europe (General)
- 890-893 Eastern Hemisphere
- DA-DR European States individually
- DS Asia
- 35-392 Middle East and Central Asia
- 401-486 India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal
- 501-689 Southeast Asia
- 701-799 China
- 801-897 Japan
- DT Africa
- 43-179 Northern Africa
- 181-363 Central Africa
- 365-469 East Africa
- 470-720 West Africa
- 727-971 Southern Africa
- DU Oceania (south seas) and Australia
- E North American History (primarily United States)
- F 1-975 United States' local history
- 1201-2191 Latin America
- 2201-3799 South America
- G Geography
- HA Social Statistics
- HN Social History and Conditions
Find Primary Sources
There is no particular area in the library where you will find primary sources shelved. You need to use creativity and insight to think about where to find primary sources for your research. Diaries, memoirs, and letters are possibilities; so are popular press accounts of events and official documents. The items listed below are a sampling of resources that may rove helpful in historical research. Look, too, for collections of documents published as anthologies or for important historical texts made available through quality websites such as American Memory (websites featuring primary sources are listed at the end of this guide).
- Minneapolis Tribune Historical (1867-1922)
Search issues of the Minneapolis Tribune from 1867-1922. Access is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM).
- New York Times Historical (1851-4 years ago)
The full text of the New York Times from 1851 to 4 years ago -- covering the entire publishing history of the newspaper back to the first issue. The newspaper text is fully indexed and searchable and the database also contains full-page images, including graphics. Available on the Web through ProQuest.
- Poole's Index to Periodical Literature
An index to the contents of periodicals published in the nineteenth century in England and America. Covers 1802-1881, with supplements that cover through 1906. Though less easy to use than later indexes, it offers access to articles in popular periodicals by subject. Headings are not always easy to guess--the Civil War, for example, is found under United States--Civil War.
Location(s): Ref AI 3 .P7 1938 (6 vols.)
- Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature
Indexes articles and reviews from a range of magazines. A separate book review index is located after the general index.
Location(s): Reference A13 .R28
- Records of the Confederate States of America, 1859-1872
Known as Pickett papers. Accompanied by a guide. These records, consisting of about 18,500 pieces, span the years 1858-1872, with the bulk of the material falling in the period April 1861-April 1865. They relate completely to the Confederate States of America: its formation, and the conduct of its internal, external and military affairs during its existence.
Location(s): Microfilm Room Main Level: JK9665 .C65 1967
- Foreign Relations of the United States
Collected correspondence, memoranda, treaties, presidential messages, etc., relating to relating to U. S. foreign policy, arranged chronologically and by region. This is a rich depository of primary source material on foreign relations and international issues.
Location(s): JX233 .A3
- Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States
A repository of proclamations, speeches, statements, etc. of presidents, kept up to date by the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents. Volumes from 1992 on are available online.
Location(s): shelved with the general collection at J80 .A283
- U.S. Serial Set
This series is a compilation of various sorts of Congressional documents. The library owns papers in this series covering the 17th Congress (1798-1823), the 36th through 41st Congress (1859-1871) and the 42nd Congress (1871-1873). They are available on microfiche in the government documents area in a cabinet marked "American State Papers"; a printed index provides subject access to the microfiche by document and envelope number. (For example, an entry for "S.misdoc. 22 (39 - II) 1278" is referencing document number 22 in microfiche envelope number 1278; it is a miscellaneous Senate document from the second session of the 39th Congress.)
Location(s): Lower Level- Government Documents Microfiche
- American Culture Series
A large collections of microfilmed books and pamphlets, with a printed index to its contents.
Location(s): Shelved in Microfilm Room under Reprint Series
Ref Z 1215 .A583
- American Periodicals Series
A collection of periodicals reproduced on microfilm. This library does not own the entire set. A general index, covering the subject matter of different magazines, is available in print form.
Location(s): Microfilm Room: PN 4877 .H66 1979
- American Women's Diaries
This collection of microfilm reproduces the diaries of women who lived and traveled in the western U.S., New England, and the South.
Location(s): Microfilm Room - CT 3260 .A64 1984
- The Cornell University Collection of Women's Rights Pamphlets
This collection of microfiche contains 117 pamphlets published between 1814 and 1912.
Location(s): Microfilm Room - Microfiche HQ 1236 .C675 1974
- FBI File on Malcolm X
An unusual primary source, reproducing the actual FBI file kept on Malcolm X. Additional FBI surveillance files are available under Microfilm E185.61 .M315 1978. The library owns a similar microfilm collection that covers the FBI file on W.E.B. Du Bois with information the agency collected from 1942 to 1963. These files, though declassified, have been heavily censored and many portions of text are blacked out. Provides not only what the authorities believed was significant evidence on these public figures and their behavior, but insight into how they interpreted that evidence.
Location(s): Mircofilm E 185.97 .L5 F23 1996
- Papers of the NAACP: Part 4, Vorting Rights Campaign, 1916-1950 with supplement: General Office Files, 1956-1965
A firsthand record of the activities of the NAACP in the fight for voting rights. Includes information on voter registration campaigns, reports on the political climate of the times, committee recommendations, accounts of resistance to voter registration campaigns, etc. Indexed by subject and by principal correspondent.
Location(s): Microfilm E185.5 .N276 1986, pt.4
Additional journals may be available in full text through various subscription databases . Use our journal locator list to scan journals, both print and electronic, by subject.
Print journals are housed in the periodicals collection on the first floor of the library.
- American Historical Review
- English Historical Review
Includes scholarly articles on medieval and modern themes in British, European and world history since the classical era.
- Hispanic American Historical Review
- Journal of African American History
- Journal of Latin American Studies
- Journal of Social History
- Journal of Southern History
- Past & Present
- Slavic Review
- Western Historical Quarterly
- William and Mary Quarterly
Current issues also available in print.
- General directories to history resources
- History - American and British (Rutgers University)
Organized by type of material, time period, and subject. Also contains a section on full-text documents (organized by time period).
- Voice of the Shuttle - History
Resources are sorted by category, type, and geographic region (e.g. Military history, African history, conferences, et.).
- World Wide web Virtual Library - History
Contains information on research methods, time periods, and historical topics. In addition, links are included for countries and regions.
- American Memory
A database containing full text documents, spoken word and sound recordings, still and moving images, maps, and sheet music as a digital record of American history and creativity. From the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions.
- Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Collection of documents pertaining to law, history, and diplomacy, organized by time period, topic, authors, and titles.
- Documenting the American South
Primary sources from the library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill including a collection of books, pamphlets, and personal narratives.
Primary sources from Western Europe, organized by geography.
- Harvard University Open Collections Program
A project to provide digital access to a variety of resources with a particular focus. The most developed collection thus far is the Women Working, 1800-1930 collection that features relevant manuscripts, pamphlets, photographs, and books.
- Historic Missouri Newspapers
Through a collaboration of several libraries, this archive reproduces selected contents of a variety of newspapers from one state, providing digital images of original and close-ups of specific stories. Searchable by keyword.
- Historical Maps
From the University of Texas Perry-Castaneda library Map Collection, maps organized by region.
- In the First Person
Indexes over 3,000 collections of personal narratives from around the world, sometimes linking to free full texts available on the Internet. Search by subject, historical event, locations, or words used in the text.
- Making of America
A digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. Includes the text of over 8.000 books and 50,000 journals.
- National Archives and Records Administration
NARA is the official depository for U.S. government materials. From this site, you can access digitized copies of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and other important documents.
- NYPL Digital Library
NYPL Digital Gallery provides access to over 550,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.
- NYPL Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection
Picture Collection Online presents more than 30,000 digitized images from books, magazines and newspapers as well as original photographs, prints and postcards, mostly created before 1923.
- Using Primary Sources on the Web
A guide to finding, evaluating, and citing primary sources on the Web, from the Reference and User Services section of the American Library Association.
- Valley of the Shadow
An outstanding collection of primary sources from two communities in Virginia and Pennsylvania, from 1859 through the Reconstruction. A fascinating use of the Internet for historical research.
- Vietnam Project
A major collection of materials, much of it available through the Web, from Texas Tech University.
- Africa South of the Sahara
Maintained by Karen Fung for the African Studies Association. Selected, annotated sites arranged by country and topic, with sources for current news from Africa.
Resources for medieval studies from Georgetown University.
- LANIC: Latin American Network Information Center
From the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Texas at Austin. Provides over 12,000 links to quality Web resources for Latin America, arranged by country or by topic, such as economy, education, and government.
A collection of primary and secondary sources on medieval, renaissance, and 17th century Europe.
Photo Credits (L to R)
- Encyclopedia of Chicago
An online version of the print reference that includes images, maps, and more, prepared under the auspices of the Chicago Historical Historical Society, the Newberry Library, and Northwestern University.
Nicollet - http://www.flickr.com/photos/amyfry/1562191537/
Post Battle Debrief - http://www.flickr.com/photos/davefishernc/2224503515/
Contrabands, 1862 - http://www.flickr.com/photos/32912172@N00/2957949328/
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