Skip to main content
Bowdoin College Library Ask Us!

American History: Reference

About Reference Sources

One good first step in research is to gather background information on your topic. Or, perhaps you have a few topics in mind and want to read a little bit about each one before making a choice. Reference sources, particularly the subject encyclopedias, are a good place to begin. They're terrific at laying out basic information about a topic: a chronicle of its history; current status; theory or philosophy; key people; and most importantly, a bibliography of additional sources.

Reference sources will vary depending on your specific topic. A selection is listed here.

Reference Sources

The Plains and Rockies: A Critical Bibliography of Exploration, Adventure, and Travel in the American West, 1800-1865
Main Libr F591 .W34 1982

Dictionary of American History
Main Ref E174 .D52 2003
Multi-volume set with extensive entries on events, movements, people, and other topics in American history. Articles contain bibliographies.

Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates
Main Ref E174.5 .C3 1993
Detailed chronology of American history starting with Norse exploration in 986, including brief descriptions of social, cultural and economic trends as well as political events.

The Oxford encyclopedia of American social history, 2012

Encyclopedia of American Social History
Main Ref HN57 .E58 1993
Three-volume, specialized encyclopedia of lengthy scholarly signed articles with bibliographies on social and cultural topics in American history.

Encyclopedia of the United States in the twentieth century
Main Ref E740.7 .E53 1996
Alphabetical collection of articles on events and movements of the twentieth century.

The New Encyclopedia of the American West (online)
Main Ref F591 .N46 1998 (print)

The Reader's Companion to American History (online)
Main Ref E174 .R43 1991 (print)
Sponsored by the Society of American Historians. Consists of short substantive signed articles with bibliographies by historians on topics in American history.

United States History : A Selective Guide to Information Sources.
Main Ref E178 .B57 1994
A bibliographic guide arranged chronologically by event.

Historical Law Dictionaries

Historical law dictionaries are valuable for their inclusion of then-contemporaneous terminology.

Black

1st ed., 1891. A dictionary of law : containing definitions of the terms and phrases of American and English jurisprudence, ancient and modern; including the principal terms of international, constitutional, and commercial law; with a collection of legal maxims and numerous select titles from the civil law and other foreign systems. Henry Campbell Black.
Via Internet Archive, HathiTrust.

2nd ed., 1910. A law dictionary containing definitions of the terms and phrases of American and English jurisprudence, ancient and modern : and including the principal terms of international, constitutional, ecclesiastical, and commercial law, and medical jurisprudence, with a collection of legal maxims, numerous select titles from the Roman, modern civil, Scotch, French, Spanish, and Mexican law, and other foreign systems, and a table of abbreviations. Henry Campbell Black.
Via Internet Archive, Internet Archive, Internet Archive.

Bouvier

1839. A law dictionary: adapted to the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, and of the several states of the American union : with references to the civil and other systems of foreign law. John Bouvier.
Via HathiTrust, Volumes 1-2.

3rd ed., 1848. A law dictionary : adapted to the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, and of the several states of the American union; with references to the civil and other systems of foreign law. John Bouvier.
Via Internet Archive, Volume 1, Volume 2.

5th ed., 1854-1855. A law dictionary, adapted to the constitution and laws of the United States of America, and of the several states of the American union ; with references to the civil and other systems of foreign law. John Bouvier.
Via HathiTrust, Volume 1, Volume 2.

11th ed., 1862. A law dictionary, adapted to the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, and of the several States of the American Union : with references to the civil and other systems of foreign law, to which is added Kelham's Dictionary of the Norman and Old French language. John Bouvier.
Via Internet Archive, Volume 1, Volume 2

3rd rev., 8th ed., 1914. Bouvier's Law Dictionary and Concise Encyclopedia.
Via Internet Archive, Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3

Bowdoin College Library
3000 College Station
Brunswick, ME 04011
207-725-3280
Ask Us!
Send Feedback/Report a Problem