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U.S. History: Getting Started

A general guide for researching U.S. history

Getting Started

Title page for first edition (1771) of Encyclopaedia Britannica, or, A Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. Typ 705.71.363, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Background Information

Begin your research with reference books to explore topics, find background information, discover leads to more in-depth resources, and locate statistics.

Look for general, subject-specific, or data-focused reference books like some of these below.  You can search InfoKat Discovery to find more using these keyword combinations: reference books united states history and limit the search results to Books or just click here!

Browse the Background Information tab above to learn about more titles for U.S. History.

Here are some good reference resources for starters.

Oxford Scholarship Online - Access an online library of over 15,000 academic books from Oxford University Press.  You can access titles by subject.


Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: Government and Politics
Detroit: Gale, 2008. 2 vols.
Provides a concise history of the U.S. government and political scene throughout American history, with a particular emphasis on how government and politics effects, and is affected by, social change.  
Access: Full-Text Online




Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War
Detroit: Gale, 2008. 2 vols.
Provides a broad overview of war throughout American history, with a special emphasis on how war effects, and is affected by, political, economic, and social change in American and global society.  Access: Full-Text Online



Gale Library of Daily Life: American Civil War
Steven E. Woodworth, ed. Detroit: Gale, 2008. 674 pp. 2 vols.
Provides historical information on the battlefield and homefront experience and the political, economic, social, and cultural life of the North and South during the War. Primary source documents in the form of first-person accounts, letters, diaries, journals, newspapers, and literature bring to life the experiences of the Union and Confederate participants and the people they left behind.  Access: Full-Text Online


Gale Library of Daily Life: Slavery in America
Orville Vernon Burton, ed. Detroit: Gale, 2008. 568 pp. 2 vols.
Illuminates daily life in slave society in America from colonial times to the end of the Civil War. Provides information on the business and regulation of slavery, the plantation way of life, work, family and community, culture and leisure, health and medicine, religion, resistance and rebellion, and slavery and freedom in the North.
  Access: Full-Text Online


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Jennifer Hootman
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Subjects: History