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Research Guide

Welcome! This page highlights key resources for conducting effective  research in History

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation.

Personal Librarian:
Shannon O'Neill
LeFrak 114


Reference Sources

Cambridge Histories - Provides full text online access to the complete 250-plus volumes of Cambridge Histories reference series. Provides political, economic and social history, philosophy and literature of selected countries and subjects.

Oxford Reference Online - Full text of over 100 reference titles published by Oxford University Press--search across multiple dictionaries, companions, and encyclopedias at once.

Oxford African American Studies Center - A broad collection of scholarly reference articles people and events that have shaped African American history. Includes digital versions of the Encyclopedia of African American History (both volumes, 1619-1895 and 1895-present), Black Women in America, and African American National Biography.

Gale Virtual Reference Library - Gale Virtual Reference Library is a database of encyclopedias and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research.

Browse the Stacks

Topics in the history discipline frequently, though not always, fall into the following classifications in the Library of Congress classification system. You can go to the library stacks and browse the shelves for books with call numbers beginning:

CB - History of Civilization
D - World History and History of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
E-F - History of the Americas
HC - Economic History and Conditions
HD - Industries. Land use. Labor.
HN - Social History and Conditions. Social Problems. Social Reform.
HQ - The Family. Marriage. Women.
HT - Communities. Classes. Races.
HX - Socialism. Communism. Anarchism.
JV - Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International Migration.
JZ - International Relations

History Research Methodology

The following are a few texts we have available in our library system that may help guide you in your research process:

Finding Books and Media

CLIO is the online catalog of all of the Columbia University Libraries, including Barnard but excluding Teachers College (use Educat). Use CLIO for access to print books, ebooks, databases and articles (more on that below), media, and even Academic Commons. For more help on finding media items or for any assistance with CLIO, contact me for a research consultation.

Pegasus is the catalog of the Columbia Law Library - try searching here if your research involves legal texts.

The NYPL catalog searches the collections of the New York Public Library, including both circulating and non-circulating research collections.

Worldcat searches library catalogs worldwide (you can sort by libraries close to your location). You can request titles not available through Columbia Libraries via BorrowDirect or Interlibrary Loan.

Finding Articles

Academic search complete - A comprehensive scholarly, multi-disciplinary, full-text database, with more than 6,100 full-text periodicals, including more than 5,100 peer-reviewed journals.

African e-Journals Project - An archives of digitized, full-text articles from multiple African journals.

Alternative Press Index and API Archive -- Feminist and other alternative press publications from 1969-present (e.g. Bust, Lilith, On Our Backs, Women and Criminal Justice)

Alt-Press Watch - Full-text database of selected newspapers, magazines, and journals of the alternative and independent press.

America, History and Life - Large database indexing scholarly literature on American history and culture of US and Canada, from prehistory to the present; enables searching by time period, with full text for selected items.

EBSCOhost Research Databases - Includes many databases (some of which are specified below), including both citations and full-text of scholarly literature.

Ethnic News Watch - Has a full-text collection of newspapers, magazines and journals from ethnic, minority and indigenous press.

Gender Studies Database - Gender-engaged scholarship, including journals, papers, books, book chapters, govt. reports, discussion and working papers, theses and dissertations, and other sources.

HAPI Online - Citations to articles and book reviews in scholarly journals published in Latin America and the Caribbean, or those dealing with topics relating to Latin America, the Caribbean and Hispanic Americans.

Historical Abstracts with Full Text - Provides selective indexing of historical articles from more than 1,800 journals in over 40 languages back to 1955 as well as the full text of more than 300 journals and over 130 books.

Humanities Full Text - Full-text and abstracts/citations of "noted scholarly sources in the humanities, as well as lesser known specialized magazines."

JSTOR - Page images of issues of scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences. Go to Advanced Search and limit to "American Studies" to see results from journals in the subject area.

LexisNexis Academic - A full-text database especially good for government documents, case law, transcriptions of broadcasts, and business-related publications.      

ProQuest - Includes many databases (some of which are specified below), including both citations and full-text of scholarly and popular literature.

Project Muse - Full-text versions of peer-reviewed journals (and thousands of books) from university presses and scholarly societies, with an emphasis on humanities and social sciences.    

Finding Primary Sources

Before you get started searching for your primary resources, check out our guide on doing primary resource and archival research!

New York Area Archives and Special Collections
This is a very short list of archival repositories that are close to Barnard's campus. For more help locating archival collections, navigating finding aids and scheduling research appointments with other archivists, or for an introduction to archival research, schedule a consultation with me. You can also use the ArchiveGrid to search across finding aids in over 1,000 archival repositories. ArchiveGrid doesn't include every finding aid from every institution in America, but it is the best search out there for searching on archival collections (many of which are not digitized and not online).

Historical Newspapers and Other Published Primary Sources
You'll see some resources from the secondary sources databases repeated here. That's because they contain both current scholarly sources, which you would likely use as secondary sources, as well as other sources that you might use as primary sources (for example, scholarly articles and books from the turn of the century, business or governmental reports, legal proceedings, historical newspaper articles, and archival sources).

  • Accessible Archives - A collection of U.S. history resources, including the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Civil War coverage of three newspapers, Godey's Lady's Book, and a selection of African-American and abolitionist newspapers.
  • Ad*Access - Cataloged, digitized print advertisements from the first half of the 20th century.
  • African American historical serials collection - African American periodicals, annuals and reports published from 1829-1922 including materials from African American religious organizations and social service agencies.
  • African American Newspapers, 1827-1998 - Covers African American newspapers from the antebellum era to the late twentieth century, with a particularly strong representation of papers from the Midwestern and the Southern United States. 
  • African Newspapers from the World Newspaper Archive - Includes newspapers published between 1800 and 1922 in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
  • African Online Digital Library - Features archival audio, video, images, and text, with strengths in West African and South African history
  • Alt-Press Watch - Full-text database of selected newspapers, magazines, and journals of the alternative and independent press.
  • Aluka - Struggles for Freedom in Southern Africa - Documents the complex and varied liberation struggles in the South Africa, with an initial concentration on six nations: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe."
  • American Indian histories and cultures - Materials from the Newberry Library's Edward E. Ayer Collection. Includes manuscripts, artwork and rare printed books, photographs and newspapers. See also The American West database from the Graff Collection at the Newberry Library, which includes manuscripts, maps, ephemeral material, and publications about the American West, frontier life, Native Americans, and other topics.
  • American Periodicals Series Online, 1740-1900 - Over 1,000 full-text periodicals that began publishing between 1740 and 1900, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, and children's and women's magazines. A lot of niche publications.
  • Archive of Americana - Comprehensive, full-text collections of newspapers, broadsides, government documents, pamphlets, and more. Includes multiple databases that can be cross searched or searched individually: America's historical imprints, Afro-Americana imprints, America's historical newspapers, African-American newspapers, Ethnic American newspapers, Hispanic American Newspapers, African American periodicals, and more.
  • Black Studies Center - Combines Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience, The HistoryMakers Videos and full transcripts for interviews with 100 contemporary African Americans, International Index to Black Periodicals
  • British and Irish women's letters and diaries, from 1500-1900 - 100,000 pages of published letters and diaries from individuals writing from the 1500 to 1900, plus several thousand pages of previously unpublished materials.
  • Chronicling America - Search on American historic newspaper pages from 1836-1922 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present.
  • Ethnic NewsWatch - Full-text articles from newspapers and periodicals published by ethnic, minority, and native press in the U.S., 1960-date.
  • Factiva - Global news and business information (good for finding company reports).
  • Gateway to North America: people, places, and organizations of 19th-century New York - Digitized holdings from the New-York Historical Society.
  • Gerritsen Collection: Women's History Online, 1543-1945 - A full-text collection of periodicals and books covering the history of women from 1543 to 1945.
  • HarpWeek - Searchable full text of Harper's Weekly, a popular illustrated 19th/early 20th century magazine.
  • Historical Black Newspapers - Provides full text and full-image articles from 20thcentury African American newspapers: Atlanta Daily World, Los Angeles Sentinel, New York Amsterdam News, Pittsburgh Courier, and The Chicago Defender.
  • JSTOR - Full-text articles from many scholarly journals, from the first issue of each journal (including some started in the nineteenth century) up to 3 to 5 years ago.
  • LexisNexis - Includes a database of primary sources in U.S. History, as well as full text newspapers, magazines and journals. Good for finding transcripts of broadcasts, company reports and SEC filings, case law, and government documents.
  • North American immigrant letters, diaries, and oral histories - Provides a unique and personal view of what it meant to immigrate to America and Canada between 1800 and 1950. Composed of contemporaneous letters and diaries, oral histories, interviews, and other personal narratives.
  • North American women's letters and diaries - Includes the immediate experiences of 107 women, as revealed in more than 9,000 pages of iaries and letters.
  • Popular culture in Britain and America - A curated collection of digitized popular culture collections across multiple archival institutions, categorized in topical collections.
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers - Full-text and full-image articles from major American newspapers: Atlanta Constitution, Baltimore Sun (1837-1985), Boston Globe, Call and Post (1934-1991), Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor (1908-1997), Irish Times (1859-2009), Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Norfolk Journal and Guide (1921-2003), Philadelphia Tribune (1912-2001), San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922), Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Scotsman (1817-1950)
  • ProQuest History Vault - Digitized archival records (including letters, financial records, diaries, legal records, photographs, and more) through ProQuest. Current databases include Slavery and the Law, Plantations Records, and Vietnam War and American Foreign Policy.
  • Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive - Collections of primary source documents on the transatlantic slave trade, the global movement for abolition, the legal, personal, and economic aspects of the slavery system, and the dynamics of emancipation in the U.S. as well as in Latin America, the Caribbean, and other regions. Sources include books, serials, manuscripts, and court records.
  • Social and cultural history - Digitized letters, diaries, autobiographies, oral histories, and other personal narratives, some full-text searchable.
  • Television News Archive - Searchable archive of abstracts of news broadcasts from 1968 to present (ABC, CBS, NBC), 1995 to present (CNN), selected content from PBS and FOX News.
  • Women and Social Movements in the United States 1600-2000 - Includes 105 document projects and archives, along with over 53,000 pages of full text documents. Examples of movements covered: abolitionism, anti-war movements, civil rights, and reproductive justice.
  • Women and Social Movements International, 1840-present - Collects published and manuscript sources documenting women's activism around the world, from the nineteenth century onward. Sources include letters, memoirs, conference proceedings, pamphlets, books, and journal articles, among others.

Finding Primary Sources in CLIO

To find published primary sources (such as published collections of letters, diaries, or documents) in CLIO, use the following keywords along with keywords specifying place, people, or

  • archives
  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • narratives
  • memoirs
  • sources

Examples of Digitized Archival Materials

  • Civil Rights Digital Library - Gathers primary sources on the US Civil Rights Movement from libraries, archives, museums, broadcasters, and others.
  • The Digital Public Library of America - A portal to the digitized collections of various institutions across the nation, including millions of photographs, documents, books, audio materials, and moving images, which can be searched, browsed, or visualized on a timeline or map. Heavier on visual materials.
  • Digital Library of the Caribbean - Provides access to digitized versions of Caribbean cultural, historical and research materials currently held in archives, libraries, and private collections. Sources include photographs, maps, newspapers, legal materials, and more.
  • Library of Congress Digital Collections - Access the online collections of the Library Congress, including maps, photographs, letters, diaries, newspapers, sound recordings, and films.
  • The New York Public Library Digital Collections - Digitized materials from NYPL's archival collections.
  • South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) - An independent national non-profit organization working to create a more inclusive society by giving voice to South Asian Americans through documenting, preserving, and sharing stories that represent their unique and diverse experiences.
  • Travel Writing, Spectacle, and World History - Brings together hundreds of accounts by women of their travels across the globe from the early 19th century to the late 20th century.
  • Umbra - A freely available portal that brings together the most extensive digital collection dedicated to African American history and culture from US archives, museums, and cultural heritage institutions.

Last Update: March, 2017

Section on Primary Sources developed, in large part, by Martha Tenney, American Studies Librarian