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LIBRARY GUIDE TO American History Pathfinder


The purpose of this guide is to identify significant reference sources in American history. Included are the basic dictionaries and encyclopedias, indexing and abstracting services, important bibliographies, book reviews, indexes and statistical sources. For additional assistance consult with the reference librarian. You may also want to consult more specialized pathfinders listed on the researcg guide.
United States History:A Selective Guide to Information Sources.
This book is a guide to the literature of American history. One would use this to identify reference books, i.e., bibliographies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc. on a particular topic. Arranged by broad topic, such as Military or Social History. Includes electronic resources.

Dictionary of American History. Ref. E 174 .D52 2003
Identifies political, economic, social, industrial and cultural aspects of American history from Colonial times to the 1960s. Does not include biographies as these are cited in Dictionary of American Biography. Includes catchwords and popular names of bills and laws and also short bibliographies. Recently revised, now 10 volumes.

Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates.
Chronologically arranged in four columns: 1) Exploration and Settlement; Wars; Government; Civil Rights; Statistics; 2) Publishing; Arts and Music; Popular Entertainment; Architecture; Theater; 3) Business and Industry; Science; Education; Philosophy and Religion; 4) Sports; Social Issues and Crime; Folkways; Fashion; Holidays. Covers years from 986-1992.

Encyclopedia of American History. Ref. E 174.5 E53 2003

Encyclopedia of American Social History. Ref HN 57 .E58 1993
This three volume title is the place to begin on just about any topic in social history. The essays are written by scholars, quite lengthy, comprehensive in scope and include bibliographies.

Here are some other multi-volume works that follow the same format

Encyclopedia of U. S. Foreign Relations. Ref. E 183.7 .E53 1997

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century. Ref. E 740.7 .E53 1996

Encyclopedia of the American Civil War.  (Also in print, Ref. E 468. E53 2000)

Encyclopedia of the Confederacy. Ref. E 487 .E55 1993

Encyclopedia of American Political History. Ref. E 183 .E5 1984

Encyclopedia of American Economic History. Ref. HC 103. E52

Encyclopedia of American Religious History. Ref. BL 2525 .Q44 2001

Encyclopedia of American Business History. Ref. HD 2721 .E5 Several vols.

Encyclopedia of the Great Depression and the New Deal. (Also in print, Ref. E 806 .C543 2001)

Encyclopedia of Rural America. Ref. E 169.12 .E5 1997

St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. (Also in print, Ref. E 169.1 .S764 2000)

Colonial America. (Also in print, Ref. E 162 .C68 2006)

American Eras. Ref. E 169.1 .A471979 1997 - Covers early exploration to the present.

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century. Ref. E 169.1 .E626 2001

Encyclopedia of American Studies. (Also in print, Ref. E 169.1 .E625 2001)

The Reader's Companion to American History. Also in print -- Ref. E 174 .R43 1991
Includes short entries, longer essays on broad topics and biographies. All contain extensive cross references.

The American Economy: A Historical Encyclopedia


Dictionary of American Biography (DAB). Ref. E 176 .D56
Provides essays ranging from one-half page to 20 pages on important men and women in American history. Each essay is written by an authority on the person and includes a bibliography of additional sources.

American National Biography. Ref. E 176 .A68 1999
Similar in format to DAB but the scope and criteria selection for inclusion are different.

National Cyclopedia of American Biography. Ref. E 176 .N27
The most comprehensive American work, but less selective than the DAB. Articles are written by an editorial team from questionnaires supplied to the families of the biographees. It is not alphabetically arranged so the general index must be used. No bibliographies.

Personal Name Index to the New York Times Index, 1851-1974. Supplement for 1975-89. Ref. CT 104 .F28 and Suppl.
Brings together in a single index names found in the New York Times Index. Cites dates and page of item in the Index.

Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. (Also in print, Ref. HQ 1115 .W6 1999; 14 volumes)

Biography and Genealogy Master Index. (Also available in print, Ref. CT 213 .B56)
A good starting point. Provides access to over 7 million biographical sketches in both current and retrospective reference sources.


The American Years: A Chronology of United States History. Ref. E 174.5 .G753 1999
Covers 1776 to 1997 and relates important events of each year.

Chronological History of U.S. Foreign Relations. Ref. E 183.7 .B745 2003
Coverage to 2000. Three volumes, arranged by date.
Writings on American History. 1902-- Ref. E 178 .A1 W75; Ref. E 178 .A1 W751 (1962-73, article listings); Ref. E 178 .W7511 (1962-1973, books)
A comprehensive listing of books and articles on American History. After 1973, covers periodical articles only. Classified arrangement with subject and author indexes. Especially useful for identifying local history journals. Cumulative index for 1902-1940.

America History and Life 
Indexes scholarly articles.

Harvard Guide to American History. Ref. E 173 .A1 H27 1974
This book is the basic reference bibliography for American history. Cites books and periodicals. Volume 1 is arranged by subject and volume 2 by chronology with major subdivisions within each section of both volumes.

A Guide to the Study of the United States of America. Also Ref. E 156 .A1 U53 & Suppl.
Broad subject arrangement for 6,500 entries. Most have lengthy, critical annotations. Cites books only. Terminal dates for selections are 1955-58, but there is a suppl. for 1956-65.

Bibliographies in American History: Guide to Materials for Research. Ref. E 178 .A1 B44
Includes over 12,000 bibliographies arranged by broad subject: Diplomatic History, Colonial Period, etc. and then by author. Has author and subject index.

Bibliographies in American History, 1942-1978. Ref. E 178 .A1 B44 1982
This title is an update of the entry above. Two volumes. Includes articles, compilations in progress and manuscript bibliographies. Table of contents cites general listings and there is also a comprehensive author/subject index.

American Studies: an Annotated Bibliography. Ref. E 169.1 .A1 A436 1986 and Ref. E 169.1 .A1 A4361 1990
Arranged by broad subject, e.g.: Music, Religion. The value of this set lies in the excellent annotations. Four volumes including an index.

Handbook for Research in American History. Ref. E 178 .A1 P79 1994
A guide to bibliographies and other reference works.

For additional bibliographic sources search Voyager, the online catalog, using the subject search united states history bibliography. For "period" bibliographies, see the Goldentree Bibliographies in American History series.
Historical Statistics

Statistical Abstract of the United States. Ref. HA 202 .S7 Searchable on-line. Click on Statistical Abstract. (Current edition kept at Reference Desk. Older editions dating back to 1924 in Government Documents, Docs. C 3.134:.)
Provides summaries of statistics on the social, economic and political organization of the U.S., arranged by broad subject. Published annually.

Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970. 1975. 2 pts.
Docs. C 3.134/2: H 62/789-970 (Kept in Docs. Reference Area; also available online )
Covers the colonial period to 1970. Thereafter updated by Statistical Abstract of the United States. Provides comparative statistics similar to those found in the Abstract.

Historical Statistics of the United States. Ref HA 202 H57 2006
Five volumes covering population, governance and international relations, economic sectors, economic structure and performance, and work and welfare.
Book Reviews
Book Review Digest. Ref. Z 1219 .C96 (1906-1999); 1983 through current also available online. Click on Book Review Digest.
Indexes and summarizes book reviews from about 75 English and American periodicals. Alphabetically arranged by author of book reviewed with subject and title index. Monthly.
Internet Sources

Gateways Directories

Voice of the Shuttle. This is a fantastic collection of sites beginning with topics such as General, Archives, Primary Documents and then a chronological arrangement.

WWW-VL History: United States. This is a "must see" site. It is arranged by topic, such as labor history and also chronologically. Either way, you get a wide variety of sources such as bibliographies, time lines, source materials and biographies.

Yahoo's U.S. History. This site is also very important. Most of the good stuff will be under "categories" or "site listings."


Hypertext on American History from the Colonial Period to Modern Times.
This site will be useful for documents (dating to Magna Charta) biographies, and presidents.

IPL's United States History. This site is from the Internet Public Library. Sub-headings allow searching by era, region, and wars.

Cycles in US History. Arranged first by institution, such as Smithsonian, and then by topics. An important source.

American History. This site is strong on maps, documents, speeches, images and statistics.

Use this site for discussions and book reviews.

Literati Accesses reference books published by Credo

Source Material

Documents of American History. Ref. E 173 .C66 1973b
Includes important documents of American history from 1492-1973.

The Annals of America. Ref. E 173 .A793; second copy in circulating collection on 3rd floor.
This 20-volume set with 2,202 selections includes laws, court decisions, speeches, newspaper editorials, and several other genres. A 2-volume Conspectus contains essays on "Great Issues in American Life," such as "Equality," "Pluralism," etc.

AMDOCS: Documents for the Study of American History. Covers 15th-20th centuries.

Historical Text Archive. Covers many countries besides the United States and also events like war or topics such as religion.

Famous Speeches

Basic Documents and Writings.

American Memory. This is a wonderful site from the Library of Congress. It gives you access to many types of sources. Here are some of the topics covered:

  • Advertising
  • African American History
  • Architecture, Landscape
  • Cities, Towns
  • Culture, Folklife
  • Environment, Conservation
  • Government, Law
  • Immigration, American Expansion
  • Literature
  • Maps
  • Native American History
  • Performing Arts, Music
  • Presidents
  • Religion
  • Sports, Recreation
  • Technology, Industry
  • War, Military
  • Women's History

Making of America
"Making of America (MoA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. The collection currently contains approximately 9,500 books and 50,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints. For more details about the project, see About MoA. Making of America is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation."

The Avalon Project At Yale Law School. Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy
Includes documents from the 18th-21st centuries.
Dan Ring
Dan Ring The content of this guide was originally curated by Dan Ring.


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