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History: Books

guide to history research for affiliates of The College of New Jersey (TCNJ)

Find History Books: Gitenstein Library and Beyond

Use the search box on our library's homepage to find history books.

  • Search by Title for a known book, by Author/Creator, or Any field for a topic.
  • Any field looks for the terms entered in all searchable fields.
  • Combine your search term(s) with <history> in the Subject field.

Example: Identify books about the history of the Yucatan Peninsula in the 19th century. Perform an Any field search for Yucatan combined with a Subject search for history.

  • Works fairly well because the search term (i.e., Yucatan) is precise.
  • <Mexico AND [SUBJECT=] history> works less well because "Mexico" is broad.
  • <"Caste War" AND [SUBJECT=] history> works best; most specific.

See also the Books tab, Primary Sources Online page, this libguide.

Some researchers might remember the "red books" that contain Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), a staple of library research. The red books are available online (41st ed.). LCSH help researchers to locate books quickly and efficiently.

Rule #1 when using the red books is to be specific. If, for example, you are looking for books about the German occupation of Poland during World War II, the main subject Poland probably won't work very well. Why? It is too broad. Instead, use the narrower, more precise heading: Poland — History — Occupation, 1939-1945. But how to find it?

  • Browse by country. Many countries receive a History subdivision (e.g., Poland — History). Pull up your country's file. Main headings are listed alphabetically. Search for the name of your country. Subdivisions appear in chronological order under the main heading (e.g., Poland — History — Revolution, 1830-1832 comes before Poland — History — Occupation, 1939-1945).
  • Use the cross-references. Look, for example, for "World War" under the "W" file to discover that the correct heading is not Second World War, World War II, WWII, or WW2 but World War, 1939-1945. That is evident from the UF (or Used for) cross-reference. (Users will also discover that books about the war are located in the General Stacks between call numbers D731 and D838.) Other important cross-references include:
    • BT for Broader term(s)
    • NT for Narrower terms(s) [especially useful]
    • RT for Related term(s)
    • SA for See also
  • Look for related terms in alphabetic proximity to the main subject. Following alphabetically after World War, 1939-1945 are the subdivisions Aerial operations, African Americans, and Atrocities. Below Atrocities are NT cross-references such as Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), but also country subdivisions including World War, 1939-1945 — Atrocities — Poland. Spot below the latter the NT cross-reference, Jedwabne Massacre, Jedwabne, Poland, 1941. Reproduce the "red book effect" in the browse by subject function of the library's discovery service (e.g., Poland — Civilization; Poland — Economic conditions; Poland — History).

Once the proper subject heading has been identified, perform an Advanced search in the library's discovery service. Select "Subject" from the initial drop-down menu and "contains exact phrase" from the second drop-down. Type or copy/paste the subject heading including subdivisions into the accompanying search box. Execute your search.

See How do I find primary sources? to discover LCSH without the red books.

The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) is a discovery platform for connecting to scholarly e-books. Users will find thousands of humanities titles published in English and other languages. "DOAB Foundation is a non-profit legal entity under Dutch law (‘stichting’), established by OAPEN Foundation and OpenEdition. The Foundation is based at the National Library in The Hague" (About DOAB).

More open access e-books:


Begun in 2008, HathiTrust Digital Library is a preservation repository for public domain and in-copyright titles. The project digitized books from the collections of major research libraries. HathiTrust partners include those libraries, Internet Archive, Google, and Microsoft.

Researchers can access HathiTrust e-books in the public domain, currently over 7,000,000 volumes. HathiTrust is similar to Google Books but the content is much better described, organized, and displayed.

Internet Archive (IA) is billed as a non-profit library. IA provides access to millions of digitized e-books. Perform an Advanced Search for author, title, or subject ("Description"). Create an account to borrow most books for 1-hour or 14 days. If you prefer WorldCat, use Advanced Search > Limit availability to: > Library Code: INARC.

Search these databases to find scholarly reviews of history books:

The following journals publish reviews of history books:

H-Net publishes scholarly book reviews from 1993 to present.

ILL (for Books) and WorldCat

Use Interlibrary Loan (ILL) to request books and book chapters not held by our library. Chapters typically arrive within hours. Physical books take days.

WorldCat is a "union catalog" of millions of records for books held by thousands of libraries. Search WorldCat to find more books about your topic. Identify e-books available to read or borrow immediately by conducting an Advanced search. Look for the Library Code box toward the bottom of the page. Enter one of the following library codes:

  • INARC (e-books from Internet Archive)
  • HATHI (e-books from HathiTrust)
  • NJT (books/e-books from our Gitenstein Library)
  • OAPEN (open access e-books)