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Research Quick Start Guides

U.S. History

Guides to Information | Encyclopedias | Biographies | Bibliographies | Indexes | Primary Sources | Statistics | Atlases | Other Libraries | Internet

See also related guides such as those on African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, Native American Studies, and Women in History.

Most of these works are located in the Green Library Information Center (IC) located on the first floor of the east wing of Green Library.

Guides to Information

Guides to Information can help you get started.

The American Historical Association's Guide to Historical Literature, 3rd ed. (Green Library Information Center Ready Reference Z6201.A55 1995) Sections 39-44 in vol. 2 cover U.S. history. This guide selects and lists, with commentary, "the finest and most useful books and articles available in every field of historical scholarship." Each section begins with an introductory essay.

Harvard Guide to American History (Green Library Information Center Z1236.F77 1974) Bibliographic guide and finding aids from colonial times to post WWII.

United States History: A Selective Guide to Information Sources (Green Library Information Center Z1236.B57 1994) a guide to reference sources for U.S. history.

Women in U.S. History : A Resource Guide (Green Library Information Center Z7964 .U49 H364 2000)


Encyclopedias can provide useful descriptions, overviews, and lists of recommended reading on a topic.


Dictionary of American History, 3rd. ed. (Green Library Information Center Ready Reference E174 .D52 2003) the latest version of a classic encyclopedia of U.S. history with articles of varying lengths written by historians. Includes brief bibliographies.

Encyclopedia of American History. Facts on File (Green Library HASRC E174 .E53 2002)

Encyclopedia of American Social History (Green Library Information Center HN57.E58 1992) Lengthy essays on topics such as race, ethnicity, regionalism, labor, family, technology, popular culture, education, etc. with good bibliographies.

Encyclopedia of American Economic History, 1980 (Green Library SSRC HC103.E52) Substantial essays by specialists on various aspects of "the collective American economic experience." Includes bibliographies.

Encyclopedia of the American Judicial System (Green Library Information Center & Stacks KF154.E53 1987) Lengthy essays cover the history, institutions, personnel, and types of law. Includes bibliographies.

The Encyclopedia of American Political History (Green Library Information Center E183 .E48 2001)

Encyclopedia of American Political History (Green Library Information Center & Stacks E183.E5 1984) Longer articles detailing major issues, themes, institutions, processes and developments. Includes bibliographies.

Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience (Green Library Information Center BL2525.E53 1988) Scholarly essays look at "the total scope of religious activity" and its impact on life in all of North America throughout history.

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century (Green Library Information Center E740.7.E53 1996) Sizeable essays by leading historians examine the major themes of the 20th century: people, politics, foreign involvement, science, technology & medicine, the economy, and culture. Includes bibliographies.

Encyclopedia of U.S. Foreign Relations (Green Library Information Center E183.7.E53 1997) "comprehensive survey that examines the myriad ways in which Americans and their government interacted with the world."

A Historical Guide to the U.S. Government (Green Library Information Center Ready Reference JK9 .H57 1998 )

A Companion to American Thought (Green Library Information Center E169.C685 1995) contains essays that cover "major concepts and thinkers in the diverse traditions of American thought" and the "key debates in the contemporary intellectual life of the United States." Suggestions for "further reading" follow each essay.


Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates, 9th ed. (Green Library Information Center Ready Reference E174.5.C3 1997) Chronological and thematic arrangement of events in North America from 986 to 1992.

American Decades (Green Library Information Center E169.12.A4__ number varies slightly) each volume chronicles a decade in the 20th century from perspectives "ranging from business to medicine, from the arts to sports."

Wars of the Americas: A Chronology of Armed Conflict in the New World, 1492 to the Present (Green Library Information Center E18.75.M374 1998)

What American Women Did, 1789-1920 : A Year-by-Year Reference (Green Library Information Center HQ1154 .C67 2001)

Chronology of Labor in the United States (Green Library Information Center HD6508 .W74 2003)

Chronological History of U.S. Foreign Relations (Green Library SSRC E183.7 .B745 2003)

Special Topics

Encyclopedia of Women in American History (Green Library Information Center HQ1410 .E53 2002)

Handbook of American Women's History (Green Library Information Center HQ1410 .H36 2000) provides "entries for those events, organizations, concepts, and individuals" central to the history of women in the United States.

Native Americans: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Peoples (Green Library Information Center E77.P89 1988) 2 vols.

Atlas of the North American Indian, rev. ed. (Green Library Information Center E77.W195 2000) presents information on Native North Americans in the U.S., Canada, and Middle American using text, as well as maps.

American Indians (Green Library Information Center E76.2.A45 1995) Covers a wide range of topics "including personages, tribes, organizations, historical events, cultural traditions, and contemporary issues" arranged alphabetically.

Handbook of North American Indians (Green Library Information Center E77.H25) A projected 20-volume set to cover the "prehistory, history, and cultures of the aboriginal peoples of North America."

The Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Green Library Information Center E185.E54 1996) Nearly two-thirds of the entries are biographical. The rest deal with "events, historical eras, legal cases, areas of cultural achievement..., professions, sports, and places." Large essays by well-known scholars look at important events and issues.

Slavery in America : From Colonial Times to the Civil War : An Eyewitness History. Facts on File (Green Library Information Center E441 .S36 2000)

Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the United States: History (Green Library Information Center E184.S75H365 1993, v. 2) Substantial essays on "the most significant aspects of Hispanic culture in the United States."

The Asian American Encyclopedia (Green Library Information Center E184.O6A827 1995) Entries of varying lengths explore "the histories and cultures of this diverse community."

Japanese American History (Green Library Information Center E184.J3J3355 1993) Contains "a narrative historical overview, a chronology of Japanese American history and dictionary entries pertaining to the history of Japanese Americans."

Jewish-American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia (Green Library Information Center E184.J5J48 1992) Covers a wide range of topics including historical events and figures, literature and arts, religious life, organizations, and contributions to public life.

The Christopher Columbus Encyclopedia (Green Library Information Center E111.O774 1992) Provides a "panoramic view of the age of European exploration from the late fifteenth century to the middle of the seventeenth century." Includes articles on "indigenous ecologies and cultures" as well as the impact "of invasion, conquest, enslavement, and disease."

Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies (Green Library Information Center E45.E53 1993) Scholarly essays looks at the colonies from a variety of perspectives, including topics such as the first Americans, racial interaction, families, religion, folkways, economic life, labor systems, government and law, the arts, language, and literature.

America's Wars (Green Library Information Center E181 .A94 2002)

The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (Green Library Information Center E208.B635 1991) Articles written by specialists cover "all of the major topics related to the Revolution" including biographies and a chronological table.

The American Revolution : An Eyewitness History. Facts on File (Green Library Information Center E275 .A2 B87 2001)

A Companion to the American Revolution (Green Library HASRC E208 .C67 2000)

Encyclopedia of the American Civil War : A Political, Social, and Military History (Green Library Information Center E468 .H47 2000)

The United States in the First World War: An Encyclopedia (Green Library Information Center D510.U65 1995) Covers domestic issues as well as military in entries of varying length with short bibliographies.

Encyclopedia of the American Constitution (Green Library Information Center KF4548.E53 1986; Law has 2000 ed.) Entries arranged in alphabetical order cover doctrinal concepts of constitutional law, people, judicial decisions, public acts, and historical periods.

Constitutional Amendments, 1789 to the Present (Green Library Information Center KF4557 .C665 2000)

Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on Civil Rights (Green Library Information Center KF4749 .P626 2002)

The Encyclopedia of the United States Congress (Green Library Information Center JK1067.E63 1995) Comprehensive essays cover major themes related to Congress including its history. These are complemented by shorter articles on a wide variety topics.

Encyclopedia of the American Presidency (Green Library Information Center JK511.E53 1993) Articles from multidisciplinary perspectives cover each president's life in office, the powers and prerogatives of the office, and the multiple roles of the President.

Guide to the Presidency, 3rd. ed. (Green Library Information Center JK516 .C57 2002) Comprehensive guide explaining origin, evolution, and contemporary workings of the presidency.

Guide to U.S. Elections CQ (Green Library Information Center Ready Reference JK1967 .C662 2001)

Congress and the Nation (Green Library Information Center & SSRC KF49.C65) 1945+ Covers national government and politics during a given presidential term.

Congressional Quarterly Almanac (Latest 10 years in Green Library Information Center JK1.C663; earlier issues in Stacks; SSRC has 1957+) 1945-present. Highlights of individual Congressional sessions.

Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court (Green Library Information Center KF8742.W567 1990; Law has 1997 ed.) Multifaceted work which offers history and major decisions of the court.

Encyclopedia of the American Left, 2nd ed. (Green Library Information Center HX86.E58 1998) Alphabetically arranged entries highlight the history of the American Left, placing "a strong emphasis upon radicals--anarchists, socialists, and communists."

A Companion to 19th-century America (Green Library Information Center E338 .C85 2001)

Encyclopedia of the Great Depression and the New Deal (Green Library Information Center & HASRC E806 .C543 2001)

The Columbia Guide to America in the 1960s (Green Library Information Center E841 .C575 2001)

The 1960s Cultural Revolution (Green Library Information Center E841 .M37 2000)

The Guide to United States Popular Culture (Green Library Information Center E169.1 .D399 2001)

The Oxford History of the American West (Green Library Information Center F591.O95 1994) Chapters deal with larger concepts and themes in the history of the American West, arranged chronologically with bibliographic notes.

Advances and Innovations in American Daily Life, 1600s-1930s (Green Library Information Center E161 .G76 2002)

The History of Science in the United States : An Encyclopedia (Green Library Information Center Q127 .U6 H57 2001)


See also Finding Biographical Information and Indexes to Biographical Information--a list of library resources at Stanford.

American National Biography (Green Library Information Center CT213.A68 1999) a successor to the Dictionary of American Biography that updates the entries and adds new ones, bringing it's coverage up to those who died prior to 1996. See the online version for updates.

Biography Resource Center click Proceed to use many of the Gale biographical products, plus The Complete Marquis Who's Who

Dictionary of American Biography (Green Library Information Center E176.D56) An important source of biographical information on " persons who have made significant contributions to our national past." To be included a person must be dead. The latest supplement brings the coverage up through 1980. Articles include selected bibliographies. See the American National Biography for newer entries.

Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary (Green Library Information Center CT3260.N57) and Notable American Women: The Modern Period (Green Library Information Center CT3260.N573) similar to the DAB for women who died before 1976.

Political Profiles (Green Library Information Center E840.6.P64) Biographies of those who played significant roles in U.S. politics during each presidency from Eisenhower to Ford.

Current Biography (Green Library Information Center CT100.C8) Biographical articles of "living leaders in all fields of human accomplishment" from 1940 to the present. Some obituaries also appear.

New York Times Biographical Service (Green Library Information Center CT100.N4) A monthly "compilation of current biographical information of general interest" with a name index.

Who Was Who in America (Green Library Information Center E663.W54) Brief biographies of deceased Americans from colonial times to 1993.

  • To find books about a person, use Socrates and search for the person as Subject.
  • Use Biography Index (Green Library Information Center Z5301.B5 or Web) to find biographical material in books and magazines.
  • Use Biography and Geneology Master Index on the Web to find entries in a wide variety of biographical sources.


Bibliographies can help you identify books and articles on a subject. They may include short descriptions called annotations. There are many that deal with U.S. history. In Socrates look for Topics with the subheading --Bibliography, or use the Bibliographic Index (Green Library Information Center Z1002.B594) or browse near the ones listed below.

Writings on American History, 1962-73: A Subject Bibliography of Books and Monographs (Green Library Information Center Z1236.W773 1985) based in part on the annual Writings on American History (Green Library Information Center Z1236.L331) which covers from 1902-1990.

American Studies: An Annotated Bibliography (Green Library Information Center Z1361.C6A436 1986) and supplement (Green Library Information Center Z1361.C6S35 1990).

Periodical Indexes

Indexes (in paper and electronic formats) can help you identify articles in magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals and other resources. Those restricted to the Stanford community are marked with the icon. Choose the after a database name to see it's help. For other indexes see the Databases A-Z and Green Library CD-ROMs lists.

America: History and Life (1964+ on Web) covers U.S. and Canadian history.

Alternative Press Index (1991+ available on the Web ; 1969-71; 1974+ shelved at Green Library Information Center Z7164.S66A5) indexes periodicals devoted to social change, including some gay/lesbian periodicals.

Arts & Humanities Citation Index (1975+) covers over 1,100 major journals across 25 disciplines in the arts and humanities. Search by author or title, or use to find who has cited an author's work. Also available through ISI's Web of Science now part of Web of Knowledge. Note: Ports to ISI are limited. Please log out when done.

ATLA Religion Database (1949+) includes some fulltext (ATLAS)

ERIC various ways to search for works in education.

Expanded Academic ASAP general index to over 1500 magazines with some fulltext. (1980+) Click Proceed.

Humanities Abstracts (1984+; abstracts beginning in 1994) (1974+ Green Library Information Center AI3.H8) Author/subject index to periodicals in fields such as area studies, folklore, history, language, literature, philosophy, religion & theology.

LexisNexis Congressional (1970+) full-text of U.S. legislative information.

PAIS International, 1972+ via Web; 1915+ volumes are shelved at Green Library Information Center Z7163.P9 indexes selected books, government documents, and periodical articles on contemporary public issues and the making of public policy.

PCI: Periodical Contents Index author/title index to over 2,000 periodicals in the humanities and social sciences from their first issues to 1991 via Web.

Social Sciences and Humanities Index (formerly International Index to Periodicals) 1907-1974. (Green Library Information Center AI3.S6)

Social Sciences Index, 1974+ (Green Library Information Center AI3S62; also on Web as Social Sciences Abstracts (1983+; abstracts beginning in 1994) part of FirstSearch from OCLC ) Author/subject index to periodicals in fields such as anthropology, economics, family studies, geography, international relations, law and criminology, political science, policy studies, psychology, social work, sociology, and urban studies.

Sociological Abstracts (1963+) (1952-1973 shelved at Green Library Information Center HM1.S67) Indexes articles concerned spectrum of social behavior (individuals, small groups, large organizations, communities, institutions, and societies). Covers sociology and related disciplines such as anthropology, criminology, law, social psychology, urban studies, race relations, demography, and education.

Women Studies Abstracts (1972+ shelved at Green Library Information Center Z7962/W65; 1984+ also in Women's Studies International on the Web) indexes feminist and scholarly books and periodicals.

Women's Studies Index (1989+ shelved at Green Library Information Center HQ1180.W68; also on Web as Women's Studies on Disc) indexes a wide range of periodicals.

Finding Primary Sources

Popular Magazines and Newspaper Indexes

Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature (Green Library Information Center AI3.S6) index to popular periodicals that goes back to the nineteenth century. See also Readers' Guide Retrospective (1963-1982)

19th-Century Masterfile Indices to Nineteenth-Century Newspapers, Periodicals, Books and Government Documents

APS Online: American Periodicals Series, I, II & III.

Evans Digital Edition (1639-1800) primary documents in early American history

Harp Week; Harper's Weekly, 1857-1865. Full-text with indexing online.

Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives part of the California Digital Library's Online Archive of California.

Ad*Access "presents images and database information for over 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955."

LexisNexis Academic - selected Lexis-Nexis files especially good for fulltext news, business, and law information. Limited to Stanford students, faculty, and staff.

America's Newspapers - from NewsBank, fulltext content of local and regional news; years of coverage varies considerably from title to title.

New York Times Historical (1851+) fulltext

  • Chicago Tribune Index (Green Library Information Center AI21.C4N49) 1972+; 1985+ is available in America's Newspapers.
  • Christian Science Monitor Index (Green Library Information Center AI21.C46) 1949+; 1987+ is available in America's Newspapers.
  • Los Angeles Times Index (Green Library Information Center AI21.L65 N49 and Ref. AI21.L65L6) 1972+; 1985+ is available in America's Newspapers.
  • San Francisco Chronicle Index (Green Library Information Center AI21.S4N4) 1976+(Earlier index on microtext in Media Microtext Center, just inside door to right--part of California Information File); 1985 + is available in America's Newspapers.
  • Wall Street Journal Index (Green Library Information Center AI21.W26) 1955+; Wall Street Journal Historical Archive (1889-1985) - full text.
  • Washington Post Index (Green Library Information Center AI21.W3O45) 1972+; 1977+ is available in America's Newspapers.


Documents of American History, 10th ed. (Green Library HASRC (Lane) Reading Room E173.D59 1988) Presents selected historical documents from 1492-1987, with brief introductions and bibliographies.

Congressional Record 1995 plus online, issues prior to 1999 are shelved under X/A in Federal Documents (West Basement) 1873- Daily record has 4 sections: Proceedings of House and Senate, Extensions of Remarks, Daily Digest. Daily Record (X1.1/A: - West 2 Stacks) is gathered together to make the Permanent Record. Daily Record is discarded after receipt of Permanent Record.

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates 1774-1873

American State Papers "the legislative and executive documents of Congress during the period 1789 to 1838."

Historic Documents (Green Library Information Center E839.5.H57) 1972- Important documents--"official statements, news conferences, speeches, special studies, and court decisions"--for the year, arranged chronologically with an introduction.

Historic Documents of the Presidency, 1776-1989 (Green Library Information Center JK511.H57 1989) Chronological documents show evolution and complex role of presidency.

Historic Government Publications from World War II - U.S. publications scanned by Southern Methodist University

History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-1984 (Green Library SSRC Reading Room JK524.S3 and JK524.S32 1985) Analysis of elections with relevant documents.

The History of Televised Presidential Debates: videos, photos, headlines, and documents

Women's Rights in the United States: A Documentary History (Green Library Information Center HQ1236.5.U6W68 1994) key documents (with introductions) from colonial times to 1993.

Early Encounters in North America: People, Cultures, and the Environment

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries and Oral Histories

North American Women's Letters and Diaries

Gerritsen Collection - Women's History Online (1543-1945) fulltext database available to the Stanford community via the Web.

Archives and Manuscripts


LexisNexis Statistical Access to statistics from federal agencies, states, and intergovernmental organizations.

Historical Statistics of the United States (Green Library Information Center Statistics Shelf) to 1970. Also part of the CD-ROM network. SUNet ID required.

Statistical Abstract of the United States (Green Library Information Center Statistics Shelf) published annually, it gathers together a wealth of statistical information from a variety of governmental and non-governmental sources.


Try also the Map Room in Branner Earth Sciences Library.

Atlas of American History, rev. ed. (Green Library IC Ready Reference G1201.S1J3 1978) Each map has a narrow focus and uncluttered format. Designed to supplement the Dictionary of American History (see first page of this guide).

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States (Green Library IC Atlas Case G1201.S1P3) Published in 1932, a classic.

New Historical Atlas of Religion in America (Green Library HASRC G1201 .E4 N4 2001 F)

We the People: An Atlas of America's Ethnic Diversity (Green Library Information Center E184.A1 A479 1988 f--look for on a bottom shelf).

The Historical Atlas of United States Congressional Districts, 1789-1983 (Green Library IC Atlas Case G1201.F9M3 1982f).

The Routledge Historical Atlas of Presidential Elections (Green Library G1201 .S1 M5 2001)

The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, 1789-1989 (Green Library SSRC Reading Room & Stacks G1201.F9M25 1989f).

Historical Atlas of Religion in America (Green Library Stacks G1201.E4G3 1976f).

Atlas of Early American History: The Revolutionary Era, 1760-1790 (Green Library IC Atlas Case G1201.S3A8 1976f).

The Atlas of the Civil War (Green Library Information Center G1201.S5A85 1994.)

Atlas of Westward Expansion (Green Library Stacks G1201.S1 W44 1995).

Atlas of American Indian Affairs (Green Library Information Center G1202.E1P7 1990f).

The Routledge Historical Atlas of Women in America (Green Library Information Center HQ1410 .P68 2000)

Other Stanford Libraries and Locations

Green Library

Other Stanford Libraries

  • Hoover Institution Library and Archives focus on 20th century political, social, and economic history of the world, including North America, covering such topics as the development of democratic institutions, peace negotiations and movements, political ideologies (especially communism, nazism, fascism, nationalism, and colonialism), political upheaval and revolutions, changes in the status of women, state-sponsored propaganda, underground resistance movements, governments-in-exile, military history, and wartime dislocation and relief.
  • Robert Crown Law Library focuses on law and many social issues.
  • Jackson Business Library has some materials on business and economic history.

Other Internet Resources


Last modified: September 17, 2008

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