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United States History: Reference Works

Reference Spotlight

Black America: A State-by-State Historical Encyclopedia presents a concise state-by-state history of African Americans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Information in each state entry is arranged chronologically. 

Getting Started

Why consult an encyclopedia or dictionary? Scholarly subject encyclopedias and dictionaries are excellent starting places for researchers just beginning a project. For one, they can provide contextualization for any number of topics. They can also provide helpful key terms that can be employed in other searches. Fortunately, many subject encyclopedias and dictionaries provide bibliographies for these entries. These bibliographies can be invaluable in pointing you to important resources on your topic. 

The Duke University Libraries have an outstanding collection of dictionaries and encyclopedias, both in print and online. 

 Online Reference Collections

ABC-CLIO ebook Collection, formerly History Reference Online, is an online collection of hundreds of history reference titles published by ABC-Clio. This is a fantastic resource, which can be browsed by subject categories or full-text searched by keyword. 

 Oxford Reference Online provides access to a selection of reference titles.  The database homepage displays a listing of all the accessible titles. so you can quickly identify the ones that pertain to U.S. history.

Specific General Titles of Interest: Print and Online

American Heritage Encyclopedia of American History. Ed. by John Mack Faragher. New York: H. Holt, 1998. Perkins/Bostock and Lilly Reference E174 .A535 1998

A Dictionary of American History. Thomas Purvis. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1997; print copies Perkins/Bostock Reference E174 .P87 1995  and Lilly Reference 973.003 P986 D554 1995

Dictionary of American History. 3rd ed. 10 v. New York: Thomson Gale, 2003. Perkins/Bostock and Lilly Reference E174 D538 2003

Encyclopedia of American History. Ed. by Richard B. Morris. 7th ed. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1996. Perkins/Bostock Reference E174.5 .E52 1996 

Encyclopedia of American History. Ed. By Gary B. Nash. New York: Facts on File, 2003. Perkins/Bostock Reference E174 .E53 2003

The Oxford Companion to United States History.  Ed. by Paul S. Boyer. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001; print copies Perkins/Bostock and Lilly Reference E174 .O94 2001