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A Guide to World History

Reference Works - A Place to Begin

In order to place your research in the context of the literature other scholars have already produced in your subject area, it is necessary to know the historiography of that field. Reference works like encyclopedias and annotated bibliographies will often highlight the most important and recent scholarship in a given field. The following sources are good places to start your research:

Oxford Bibliographies Online: Oxford University Press, one of the most prestigious presses, has a bibliography devoted to Atlantic History. Its historiographical essays and annotated bibliographies are written by experts in their fields. Once you are in this database, type "gender," "sexuality," or whatever else you are looking for in the search box that says "jump to" (if you search in the search box with the magnifying glass at the top of the page, you will end up searching ALL Oxford Bibliographies). You will find that there are a number of entries headed with the term "gender," like "Gender in Iberian America," "Gender in North America," "Gender in the Atlantic World," and "Gender in the Caribbean." "Sexuality" won't head any entry titles, but you will find the term within other entries. To find out what the author wrote which relates to sexuality, click on the entry, and then use the "Find on page" feature of your Web browser.

Encyclopedia of the Atlantic World, 1400-1900 "synthesizes a generation of historical scholarship on the events on four continents, providing readers an invaluable introduction to the major people, places, events, movements, objects, concepts, and commodities of the Atlantic world as it developed during a key period in history when the world first started to shrink. The entries discuss specific topics with an eye toward showing how individual items, people, and events were connected to the larger Atlantic world. This accessibly written reference book brings together topics usually treated separately and discretely, alleviating the need for extra legwork when researching, and it draws from the latest research to make a vast body of scholarship about seemingly far-flung places available to readers new to the field." - Publisher's description

The Princeton Companion to Atlantic History "125 entries--all specially commissioned for this volume from an international team of leading scholars--synthesize the latest scholarship on central themes, including economics, migration, politics, war, technologies and science, the physical environment, family networks, canon law, and utopias." -- Publisher's description. 

Benjamin, Thomas, ed. Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450 (Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007).

Armstrong, Catherine. Using Non-Textual Sources: A Historian's Guide (London; New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2016).

Europe 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the early modern world (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, c2004) - 6 vols., 1,082 articles, written by eminent scholars, cover major topics in art, government and education as well as providing biographical entries on key figures of the period. 

Encyclopedia of European social history from 1350 to 2000 (Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001) - 3 vol. print or eBook; "Covering the period from the beginning of the Renaissance to the present, this encyclopedia consists of 209 signed articles and nearly 300 biographical entries. The set is thoroughly indexed, amply illustrated, and a joy to read. Graduate students will find it useful as an introduction to historiography while advanced high school students will enjoy the articles on historical topics."--"Outstanding Reference Sources," American Libraries, May 2001.

Print Sources

In order to find monographic sources for your research paper, you will need to know some of the relevant subject headings for this time, place, and type of history. Librarians have created the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), a hierarchical classification system in which the subject of texts are subdivided from the most general to the most specific, for the efficient retrieval of information. Double hyphens indicated the subdivision of subject headings. One must include all parts of the LCSH when one searches a library's catalog.

Any “thing” one wishes to research in this course may have its own subject heading and related subheadings.

What is true for monographs is true for journal articles. WU Libraries have access to journals through bound volumes of singular titles, publishers' digital platforms, and multi-journal periodical databases. There are multiple points of access to journal articles which may be of use to you for this class. One can start with keyword or subject term searches in one of the many humanities or social sciences databases, a general database like Academic Search Complete, or one can search the catalog for subject specific journals. The advantage to searching a broad database is the bounty of information, some of which might appear in more general or tangentially related journals. The disadvantage is the volume of irrelevant content one has to sort through. To narrow your search to more subject-specific journals, add the subheading "Periodicals" to the end of any of the following subject headings.

Library catalogers use the subheading "Sources" at the end of a string of subheadings to indicate anthologies of primary sources. However, cataloging is not a perfect science, so not every collection of primary sources has this subheading. For example, a search for the keyword phrase "documentary sourcebook" in the WU Libraries' catalog produces seven titles, only three of which have "sources" as a subheading. In other words, performing a subject search will not produce a complete list of all primary source collections. Sometimes the source one wants to find is not in an anthology but cited in a bibliography of another work. You might want to try an advanced search with a combination of subject headings and keywords like “sources,” "sourcebook," "primary sources," "primary documents," etc. 

The following subject headings are useful (but by no means complete) points of entry into topics covered in this course:


America -- Discovery and exploration.

Europe -- History -- 1492-1648

                            -- 1648-1789

                                 -- 1789-1815

                            -- 1815-1848

["Europe" can be replaced with the name of any Western European nation]

Material Culture

Material culture [particularly the following subheadings]:

             -- Atlantic Ocean Region 

             -- Atlantic States 

             -- British Atlantic Ocean Region – History

             -- England -- History – 1Xth century  [X = 6, 7, 8, or 9]

             -- [ditto every Western European nation, also “Europe”] 

             -- Great Britain -- Colonies -- History – 1Xth century

             -- [ditto every Western European country]

             -- History (most notably The Global Lives of Things: the mat'l cultre of connections in the early mdrn world)

                         -- History – 1Xth century.

                         -- Indians of North America -- Collectors And Collecting -- History

                         -- Latin America

                         -- Louisiana -- History – 1Xth century

                         -- North America -- History – 1Xth century 

                         -- Political aspects -- Europe -- History 

                         -- Political aspects -- History 

                         -- Social aspects -- France -- History – 1Xth century

                                                        [ditto every other Western European nation]

-- Collectors and collecting.

Commerce & Consumption

Commerce -- Europe -- History [with phrase "EARLY MODERN" in Any Field]

Commerce -- History – 1Xth century

Europe -- Commerce -- Africa, West -- History

Europe -- Commerce -- America  

                                                  -- Early works to 1800

                                                  -- History 

Europe -- Commerce -- History – 1Xth century

America -- Commerce -- History – 1Xth century

Atlantic Ocean Region -- Commerce -- History

                                                                           -- 1Xth century

North Atlantic Region -- Economic integration

          -- 1Xth century

France -- Colonies -- Commerce -- America

                -- Africa

[ditto every Western European nation]

International economic relations -- History – 1Xth century

Globalization -- History.

Social networks – History

Consumption (Economics) – [nations, continents, regions] – History – [centuries]

Consumers -- [nations, continents, regions] – History – [centuries]

Exchange -- [nations, continents, regions] – History – [centuries]


Europe -- Civilization -- Latin American influences.

         -- African influences

         -- Foreign influences

France -- Civilization -- Caribbean influences

                     -- African influences

Primary Source Databases

WU Libraries has access to a wide variety of primary source databases. The following may prove useful to you:

English language newspapers, pamphlets, broadsides, etc.
Early American Imprints, Series I (Evans, 1639-1800) - The definitive resource for researching 17th- and 18th-century America. The digital collection contains virtually every book, pamphlet and broadside published in America over a 160-year period

Early American Imprints, Series II (Shaw-Shoemaker, 1801-1819) A comprehensive set of American books, pamphlets and broadsides published in the early part of the 19th century

Burney Collection Newspapers (17th & 18th Century) newspapers, pamphlets, and books representing the largest and most comprehensive collection of early English news sources.

Eighteenth Century Journals II - rare British newspapers and periodicals from 1699-1812

Internet Library of Early Journals - Collection of 18th and 19th Century journals. Some journals currently available are Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Gentleman's Magazine, Notes and Queries, and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

Nineteenth Century U. S. Newspapers (1800 - 1900) - digital facsimile images of both full pages and clipped articles for hundreds of 19th century U.S. newspapers. For each issue, the newspaper is captured from cover-to-cover, providing access to every article, advertisement and illustration.

International Women's Periodicals, 1786-1933 - Historical women’s periodicals provide an important resource to scholars interested in the lives of women, the role of women in society and, in particular, the development of the public lives of women as the push for women’s rights—woman suffrage, fair pay, better working conditions, for example—grew in the United States and England. Some of the titles in this collection were conceived and published by men, for women; others, conceived and published by male editors with strong input from female assistant editors or managers; others were conceived and published by women, for women. The strongest suffrage and anti-suffrage writing was done by women for women’s periodicals. Thus a variety of viewpoints are here presented for study.

Caribbean Newspapers 1718-1876 - The largest online collection of 18th- and 19th-century newspapers published in this region—will provide a comprehensive primary resource for studying the development of Western society and international relations within this important group of islands. This unique resource will prove essential for researching colonial history, the Atlantic slave trade, international commerce, New World slavery and U.S. relations with the region as far back as the early 18th century. This archive includes 160 papers, of which 47 are in Spanish, 14 in French, 4 are in French and English, 5 are in Danish and English, and the rest are English-only. 

American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection  - The AAS Historical Periodicals Collection contains more than 6,500 historical periodical titles. The collection represents over two centuries of print culture, ranging from early works imported by the colonists to later titles published on American soil on the eve of the Revolution and during the early republic. Subjects covered in the collection reach into every facet of American life, including science, literature, medicine, agriculture, women's fashion, family life, and religion. The five series can be searched simultaneously or individually. Series 1 covers 1691 through 1820.

American Denominational Newspapers - historical newspapers covering religious news, and the role religion played in American life and society. Supports research of early American history, religious history, ethnic studies, abolitionism, Civil War, and gender studies. Contains more than 320 rare newspapers from over 30 states published between 1799 and 1900.

American Periodicals (1740 - 1940) - Full-text periodicals published between 1740 and 1940, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children's and women's magazines and many other historically-significant periodicals

Other Collections

Sabin Americana - Works about the Americas published throughout the world from 1500 to the early 1900's. Included are books, pamphlets, serials and other documents that provide original accounts of exploration, trade, colonialism, slavery and abolition, the western movement, Native Americans, military actions and much more. Over 6 million pages from 29,000 works.

Medieval and Early Modern Sources Online (MEMSO) - A resource for the study of Britain and its place in the world during the medieval and early modern period (c. 1100-1800). Combines the key printed sources for English, Irish, Scottish and Colonial history with original manuscripts and the latest web technologies.

Early English Books Online (EEBO) (1475-1700) - Contains over 125,000 titles listed in Pollard & Redgrave's Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640), Wing's Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700), and the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661).

Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) - Books and other materials published between 1701 and 1800 in the United Kingdom and the Americas.

Trade & Economic Development
Indian Trade in the Southeastern Spanish Borderlands - Comprising the papers of the Panton, Leslie & Co., a trading firm, established in British East Florida during the American Revolution. When Spain won title to both East and West Florida in 1783, the company was granted a virtual monopoly. For many years Panton, Leslie & Company dominated trade with the Creeks and Seminoles. They eventually captured much of the trade with the Choctaws and Chickasaws, and were important in the trade with the Cherokees.

Virginia Company Archives - Documents the founding and economic development of Virginia as seen through the papers of the Virginia Company of London, 1606-1624.

Making of the Modern World: The Goldsmiths'-Kress Library of Economic Literature (1460 - 1850) presents more than 61,000 books from the period 1460-1850, and 466 pre-1906 serials.

Law & Governance
Making of Modern Law: Foreign, Comparative and International Law, 1600-1926 - provides historical resources previously found in repositories. It gives libraries online access to foreign and international legal literature sourced from the collections of the Yale, George Washington University, and Columbia law libraries, in the following areas: International Law; Comparative Law; Foreign Law and others.

Making of Modern Law: Trials, 1600-1926 - Based on holdings of the law libraries of Harvard and Yale, and the Library of the Bar of the City of New York

U. K. Parliamentary Papers - Includes Bills and Acts, Command Papers, Commons and Lords Papers, Journals, and Debates from the 18th century through 2005.

Et cetera

Empire Online - digital collection of manuscripts and printed material, 1492-1962. The main document types in the resource are: exploration journals and logs; letter books and correspondence; periodicals; official government papers; missionary papers; travel writing; slave papers; memoirs; fiction; children’s adventure stories; traditional folk tales; exhibition catalogues and guides; maps, and marketing posters.

India, Raj and Empire - sourced from the Manuscript Collections of the National Library of Scotland, and documenting the history of South Asia from the foundation of the East India Company in 1615 to the granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947.

Mountain People: Life and Culture in Appalachia - consists of the diaries, journals, and narratives of explorers, emigrants, military men, Native Americans, and travelers. In addition, there are accounts on the development of farming and mining communities, family histories, and folklore. These accounts provide a view of the vast region between Lexington, Kentucky and Winchester, Virginia, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Birmingham, Alabama, and provides information on the social, political, economic, scientific, religious and agricultural characteristics of the region.

Electronic Enlightenment - the most wide-ranging online collection of edited correspondence of the early modern period, linking people across Europe, the Americas and Asia from the early 17th to the mid-19th century — reconstructing one of the world's great historical "conversations."

Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture (1790-1920) - contains over 2 million pages from manuscripts, books, broadsheets, and periodicals, reflecting the widespread impact of the changes in crime and its policing during the long nineteenth century. The archive unites a number of geographic areas and disciplines, from law, criminology, and history to studies of popular culture and fiction.

International Historical Statistics - a collection of statistical data from around the world, collected between 1750-2010 and covering a wide range of socio-economic topics. The collection includes data on the Americas and Europe, but also hard-to-find data on Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive - scholarly study and understanding of slavery from a multinational perspective.

Biodiversity Heritage Library - a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global “biodiversity commons.” BHL also serves as the foundational literature component of the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL).

Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 - 79 document projects with more than 2,400 documents, 32,000 pages of additional full-text documents, and 1,700 primary authors. It includes as well book, film and website reviews, notes from the archives, and teaching tools.

Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930 - a collection of historical materials from Harvard's libraries, archives, and museums that documents voluntary immigration to the United States from the signing of the Constitution to the onset of the Great Depression. Concentrating heavily on the 19th century, Immigration to the US includes over 400,000 pages from more than 2,200 books, pamphlets, and serials, over 9,600 pages from manuscript and archival collections, and more than 7,800 photographs. By incorporating diaries, biographies, and other writings capturing diverse experiences, the collected material provides a window into the lives of ordinary immigrants.

Witchcraft in Europe and America - the earliest texts in this comprehensive collection on witchcraft date from the 15th century and the latest are from the early 20th century. The majority of the material concerns the 16th to 18th centuries, the so-called "classic period." In addition to these classic texts, the collection includes anti-persecution writings, works by penologists, legal and church documents, exposés of persecutions, and philosophical writings and transcripts of trials and exorcisms.

French sources

Mercure de France, 1672-1810 - published from 1672, this influential periodical promised in its first issue to chronicle the activities of luminaries in metropolitan Paris, in the French provinces, and abroad, and to offer good literature to lovers of novels and stories. After 1724, the periodical was split into a literary and a political section.

Actes Royaux Francais, 1256 – 1794 approximately 16,000 pamphlets covering this important period in French history are available in this collection. One of the largest collections of its kind, it offers a wealth of information on the legislative history and governance of France, as well as other aspects of French life.

Portuguese sources

Brazilian and Portuguese History and Culture: The Oliveira Lima Library contains the rare and unique pamphlets from the personal library of the Brazilian diplomat, historian, and journalist Manoel de Oliveira Lima. Database allows users to visualize results and term frequencies over time and to limit their search by dates, illustration types, and languages. 90% of the content is in Portuguese.

Web-based Resources on Early Modern Material Culture

In the section "Web-based Resources for Wunderkammer project" in my LibGuide for HIST 3302 Monsters & Marvels: Explaining the Unknown in the Early Modern World, I provide links to a number of online museum collections which depict "things" exchanged in the Early Modern period.