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HIS 179/365/373/375/460: Antebellum African American History: Reference Shelf

research African American history through Reconstruction + the history of American Slavery

Key Reference Work

Selected Reference Works

hand leafing through reference book

Question: What value has a reference book? Why, for example, consult a scholarly history encyclopedia?

Answer: Encyclopedias are two steps removed from the primary historical evidence, that is from the letters, diaries, oral histories, and other first-hand accounts of history. For that reason encyclopedias belong to a class of information librarians call reference or tertiary sources.

  • Encyclopedias help researchers to contextualize their topics, situating the primary source evidence within broader scholarly (or historiographical) debates. Context is critical, not least because researchers cannot elicit relevant search results from library databases such as JSTOR if they do not know which keywords (or search terms) to employ.
  • Obtain from encyclopedias background information about your historical topic. Easily track down additional sources for further reading.
  • Browsing a history encyclopedia can even help you to choose and/or refine your research topic. The Gitenstein Library reference works listed on this page, in short, are a great way to begin any history-related research project.

See the main History libguide > Reference Shelf page > African Americans tab for additional sources.

Antislavery and abolition:

Early Atlantic and Antebellum slavery:

See the main History libguide > Reference Shelf page > African Americans tab for additional sources.

See the main History libguide > Reference Shelf page > Civil War tab for additional sources.