Historical Bibliographies

The following bibliographies of historical literature attempt to list the best or standard books available in different areas. These can be especially useful for people who are beginning research in a topic since they can guide a person to the most helpful and most authoritative material.


This is discussed in another unit, covers many fields other than history, and so it does not list nearly as many historical items as the others covered here. However, it is revised far more often than the others, and can be used to update what you may find in more specialized sources. The fact that it is more selective may be of value in helping you decide on a few "best" books on a topic. THE READER'S ADVISER is published by the Bowker Company and has come out in several editions. If you have an earlier one it may be called THE READER'S ADVISER AND BOOKMAN'S MANUAL. The later editions are much more comprehensive than earlier ones. The sources listed are arranged by topic, and often give a brief overview of the literature at the beginning of each subject. Some of the important works have an excerpt from a book review in their annotation. In some smaller libraries this may be the only good source you have for bibliographies of history, so try to become familiar with it.


This guide published by The American Historical Association covers all countries and all times. In addition to listing the literature, the GUIDE also mentions libraries and museums which are particularly useful for the study of different subjects.


Again, The Library of Congress publishes this guide, which is not limited to historical material, but covers many topics such as art, sports, economics and education. It Is especially useful for its full descriptions. The basic volume's coverage was to 1955, and there is a supplement covering 1956 to 1965.


This was first published in 1954, written by Oscar Handlin. The current edition was edited by Frank Friedel. It is one of the most unto-date and useful guides to the historical literature of the United States which is available. If you have the 1954 edition, you will find that the arrangement is primarily by time periods, with some excellent introductory material in the front. The new edition has an added volume with books also listed by broad topics, such as education, politics and literature.

If you don't have any of the above guides, you can still find bibliographies to help you. For example, many encyclopedias include short bibliographies at the end of each chapter.

Larger libraries will often have even more specialized and comprehensive bibliographies on particular historical topics. For example, many will have bibliographies on the Civil War, and if you have a patron doing extensive research on a topic, you may want to investigate what is available in other libraries.

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This page was last updated on November 17, 2003.