Locating Great History Resources


Library of Congress’ Law Library Reference Desk from the LoC’s blog.

Originally, I planned to have this week and next be reviews for upcoming novels.  However, one had its release date pushed back a week (5/5/15 to 5/12/15) so I thought a non-review post was in order.  Without further ado…

Last summer I was asked to give a presentation on history and political science resources for a job interview.  Alas, neither I nor anyone else was offered the job.  The library decided not to hire.  Since then, that list has been sitting in a PowerPoint unused.  I thought it was time to change that.  Below is a list of great reference works, databases, and freely available websites for researching history.  I’ll follow-up with two more posts down the line that will address the political science/social science resources and locating statistical data.  I hope this list helps someone out there with their research endeavors.

General Reference Works:

  • American Decades: Each volume provides decade-specific information on news headlines; arts and entertainment; business and the economy; education; government; politics and law; lifestyles and social trends (including fashion); medicine and health; science and technology; and sports.  This is offered in both print and e-book formats.
  • Statistical Abstracts of the United States: Offers a variety of 1900-2012 US statistical data. 2013 and after is instead offered within a subscription database provided by ProQuest.  Print copies were also created and most academic libraries offer both versions.
  • Britannica Concise Online: A great place to start when narrowing down a research topic.  Growing up, the print copy at my school library was invaluable.  Another reputable encyclopedia, like Encyclopedia Americana, will also suffice.
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library/Wiley Online Library/RefWorks: Each offers at least a selection of e-books and reference works that are all full-text searchable from one interface.
  • Other sources to check once a topic is determined:
    • Almanacs
    • Atlases
    • Specialized Dictionaries

All of the above are subscription databases, except the1900-2012 Stats Abstract.  That means I cannot link directly to them so please check to see which of these you local or university library offers.

History Databases:

  • Academic Search Complete: Offers mostly full-text access to journals in all subjects.
  • American History and Life:  Indexes US and Canadian History; often connected through link resolvers to full-text in other databases.
  • ArchiveGrid and Archive Finder:  Both index primary source materials. Archive Grid offers worldwide coverage while Archive Finder focuses on the US, UK, and Ireland.
  • Historical Abstracts:  Indexes 1450-present World History.  Again, this database is often connected through link resolvers to full-text in other databases.
  • JSTOR: Offers scholarly journal back-issues in all subjects.  These are all full-text.
  • Project Muse: Provides full text access to journals in all subject areas.

All of the above are subscription databases.  That means I cannot link directly to them so please check to see which of these you local or university library offers.

Also, Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, and Project Muse are great starting points for all subject areas.  They were my mainstays for article searching as an undergraduate history major.

History Web Resources:

  • American Memory: Offers scanned documents and photographic material from multiple American cultural institutions.
  • Avalon Project: Offers historical and modern law, history, and diplomacy documents. It is curated by Yale University.
  • BBC Archive: Offers historical records and material from BBC, including programs, documents and photographs from as far back as the 1930s.  It’s a treasure trove for British material.
  • Europeana Offers scanned documents, artwork, and photographic material from European nations.
  • In the First Person:  Free index for published personal narratives, including letters and diaries. It is offered by Alexander Street Press and will point to the company’s other databases that hold the items.  However, keep in mind the other databases many not be offered by your library.  Academic libraries are the most likely to offer these highly specialized databases.
  • Oxford Index: Free index of titles produced by The University of Oxford Press and its affiliates.  After finding a title of interest, check your local or university library catalog for the books and available databases for articles.
  • World Digital Library:   UNESCO website with historical manuscripts and secondary sources spanning the history of civilization. The objects depicted within come from many world cultural institutions.

Have you located a great history research website, book, or database  that I haven’t listed?  Please comment and let me know.


2 thoughts on “Locating Great History Resources

  1. Pingback: Locating Great Political Science Resources | Amy's Scrap Bag: A Blog About Libraries, Archives, and History

  2. Pingback: Locating Statistical Resources | Amy's Scrap Bag: A Blog About Libraries, Archives, and History

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