Best Historical Materials

The Committee seeks to improve the usefulness of bibliographies and indexes in the field of history. In addition, the Committee evaluates the pattern and effectiveness of coverage in all fields of history, promotes enhanced availability of historical works and information, and serves as liaison among bibliographers, indexers, publishers, and professional associations.

For further information, please visit the committee roster page (login required) or the staff contact page.

The Winners

Kingdoms: An Encyclopedia of Empires and Civilizations. Edited by Saheed Aderinto. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, [2017]. 363 pp. $89 hardcover (ISBN: 9781610695794). E-book also available (ISBN: 9781610695800).

While its title implies that this work will focus on political history, it is actually (according to its introduction) “a reference book on African civilization before the 1880s”. After a valuable editor’s introduction that lays out important themes in African history, a series of alphabetical entries cover polities ranging in time from the third millennium B.C.E. (ancient Egypt) to the twentieth century C.E. (Asante, Buganda, and several others). A selection of primary sources follows. An index, timeline, and glossary are included. In addition to narratives of political and military history for each nation, there is discussion of developments within economic, cultural, and religious life that shaped the history of the kingdoms. Interactions between kingdoms and with European and Arab traders and diplomats are also covered. Each entry includes suggestions for further study. The works are written to be accessible to advanced high school and undergraduate readers. Recommended for school, college, and public libraries. Steven Knowlton, Princeton University.

Harvard University. “Colonial North America at Harvard Library.” Accessed January 21, 2019.

Expanding access to primary source documents through digitization, this collection focuses on archival records in various Harvard University Library collections from the 17th and 18th centuries (passing from the Colonial to the Early Republic era of American history). The documents are diversewills, inventories, maps, mathematical texts, correspondence, bills of lading, etc. —and the digitization is of very high quality. There are several curated collections which gather various documents around a thememedicine, material culture, women, the sea, etc. —with a useful introductory essay regarding the information to be found, its application to the theme, and the place of the theme in historical studies. Users may browse the thematic collections or search by keyword (excellent metadata for searching is provided). The viewer is Well-designed, with multiple options for manipulating, saving, citing, or sharing the image. This source will be most useful for high school, college, and public libraries. —Eileen M. Bentsen, Baylor University.

Grossman, Mark.Constitutional Amendments: Encyclopedia of the People, Procedures, Politics, Primary Documents Relating to the 27 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, 2nd ed. Amenia, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, [2017]. 2 vols. $275 hardcover (ISBN: 9781682171769). $344 e-book (ISBN: 978-1-68217-177-6).

Much of American jurisprudence and political debate centers around the amendments to the United States Constitution, and the interpretations given to their texts. Grossman’s two-volume set, a revision of his 2012 edition, offers vital context for such interpretation. The complete text of each amendment is reproduced, along with timelines of their progress toward ratification, introductory materials that outline the contemporary political questions that motivated the amendments, selections from congressional debates and the opinion pages of newspapers, subsequent Supreme Court cases involving the amendments, capsule biographies of individuals important to the amending process, and social history documents such as advertisements and commodity prices from the time period of each amendment. An index is included. Any interested citizen will benefit from the information presented here, and it is appropriate for all libraries. Steven Knowlton, Princeton University.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Holocaust Encyclopedia.” Accessed January 21, 2019.

Preserving the artifacts, memories, and history of the Holocaust in terms accessible to students, educators, and policymakers, the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust also aims to develop critical thinking skills and help its users combat Holocaust denial arguments. Oral histories, photographs, maps, and documents provide primary source evidence for personal, research, and classroom use. Context is provided by essays, video interviews with curators describing research into specific artifacts in the collections, and animated maps. The encyclopedia provides keyword searching with optional limiting by content type and language; users can also browse by tags or an A-to-Z table of contents. Accessibility level varies with each itemsome videos have transcripts or captions, others have none. The encyclopedia also includes resources for teachers: critical thinking questions for selected essays, a very accessible essay on “How to Identify Reputable Historical Sources,” curriculum guides (on the Museum’s page), and more. Valuable for school, college, and public libraries. Eileen M. Bentsen, Baylor University.

Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond. Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America. Reviewed 1/7/2019.

Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America is the product of the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, with contributions from the University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, and Johns Hopkins University. The site provides access to the Depression-era records of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) that highlight the practice of redlining in the real estate industry. The HOLC maps outline areas deemed a secure financial investment in green, declining areas in yellow, and areas of increased financial risk in red. However, their reasoning for these rankings often had a racist base that resulted in neighborhoods with large numbers of people of color being more likely to receive a red outline. The information displayed on the site helps users interpret redlining’s impact on urban neighborhoods and the current economic conditions of their city. Users can interact with these records by viewing various cities, selecting different neighborhoods within those cities, and filtering areas based on HOLC’s grading system. The site opens with instructions on viewing the materials and downloading the images. Users can zoom in on their current city or find information for other areas using the search function. The navigation bar lists an introduction, detailing the background of the HOLC’s grading system and information on the archival process; a bibliography and bibliographical note with a comprehensive listing of studies about HOLC’s system, segregation, and discrimination; an “About” section with information on the contributors to the site; and a “Contact Us” page. The site can be used by the average public library patron, but would most benefit academic researchers. This unique site gives a convenient, accessible place to access information only found using resources housed in multiple locations. Amanda Wahlmeier, Johnson County Library, Shawnee Mission, Kansas.

Not Even Past: The Public Archive: Doing History Online and In Public, Reviewed 1/14/2019

The Not Even Past website includes blogs, reviews on historical materials from all over the world, The Public Archive: Doing History Online and In Publiccollection of student works, and archived episodes of the podcast 15-Minute History. The website is edited by Professor Joan Neuberger, Professor of History at the University Of Texas (UT), Austin. This random assortment of archived materials showcases work developed by UT graduate students and faculty. Graduate students in a Public and Digital History Seminar develop archives for The Public Archive: Doing History Online and In Public. These works were previously not digitized and the students select the topics with the assistance of UT librarians. Most collections represent a physical archive on the UT campus. As Neuberger notes, “Each website includes digitized archival documents, 2 or more blog-essays to make the archival material accessible and provide historical context for them, and two lesson plans for ideas about how to teach related subjects using these documents.” The Department of History at UT Austin provides the website and organizational support. The site is composed of collections relevant to both world and United States history; for example, The Road to Sesame Street and Mercenary Monks. The blogs, lesson plans, and digitized information provide pieces to the historical puzzle. Podcasts and search functions add to the research opportunities. Additional lists of resources connect these vignettes of history to a solid historiographical foundation. This is a project that enlightens viewers through content and context. Another archive-blog, Guards and Pickets: The Paperwork of Slavery is an example of an emotional and exemplary view of history. The site remains active with plans to add historical materials into the future. It is recommended for students in grades 6-12, undergraduate students, and individuals interested in wide-ranging historical content. Sue McFadden, Indiana University East,

Van der Vieren, Monica.On the Trail of the North American Buffalo. Reviewed 1/7/2019.

On the Trail of the North American Buffalo is a website with content primarily written by Monica Van der Vieren with assistance from Shaun O’Neil and input from many other historians and historical institutions. The site provides a chronological timeline of the North American buffalo, or bison, starting with the Ice Age 1.8 million years ago. It also gives information on other elements of natural history, such as ice sheets, tectonic plate shifts, grasslands, and prairie ecology. Users scroll through the timeline interspersed with primary sources including photographs, videos, and maps related to the buffalo and its habitat. Unfortunately, there is no search function, but topic areas such as arrival of the buffalo, the great slaughter of the nineteenth century, and new trails are listed at the top of the site so users can navigate through the timeline without endless scrolling. The site provides a comprehensive look at a natural history topic in an engaging and appealing format and ends with an extensive bibliography that can guide the user to more information on any given aspect of the buffalo’s life. The information is best suited for the average public library patron or high school level researcher. Amanda Wahlmeier, Johnson County Library, Shawnee Mission, Kansas

Reforming America: A Thematic Encyclopedia and Document Collection of the Progressive Era. Edited by Jeffrey A. Johnson. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, [2017]. 2 vols. $189 hardcover (ISBN: 9781440837203). E-book also available (ISBN: 9781440837210).

The “Progressive Era”, was a time of seeming contradiction, as reforms that expanded individual rights and political “reform” ran into movements to entrench segregation, promote eugenics, and mechanize the workplace. As such, current students of history may find it challenging to understand historical actors and events of the period without appropriate contextual information, which his encyclopedia strives to provide. It is organized thematically (Social and Political Life; Work and Economic Life; Cultural and Religious Life; Science, Literature, and the Arts; Sports and Popular Culture), with each section containing short alphabetized entries, followed by a selection of primary sources. Each entry includes suggestions for further reading, and the overall bibliographic essay and timeline further enhance its usefulness. An index is included. It is most appropriate for school and public libraries. Steven Knowlton, Princeton University.

Bookheim, Louis W. Reports of U.S. Presidential Commissions and Other Advisory Bodies: A Bibliographic Listing, updated ed. Getzville, N.Y.: William S. Hein & Co., 2017. 572 pp. $275 hardcover and online package (ISBN: 9780837740188).

From the time of Andrew Jackson, presidents have appointed special commissions to deal with matters that fall outside of the purview of congressional committees or departments of the executive branch. Often, these commissions have an investigatory function and their reports prove to be of great value by gathering together information that would otherwise be scattered; in all cases, their reports are a primary source of use to historians, political scientists, economists, and other scholars. However, the reports are not necessarily included in the Public Papers of the Presidents, nor in the Weekly Compilation of the Presidential Documents. Bookheim has performed the valuable service of locating publication information for nearly all of the commissions’ reports (some are classified), and plans to continue to add new entries to the online version of the book. Where reports are found in the Congressional Serial Set, Bookheim provides citations; otherwise, he offers full title entries, along with, as relevant, SuDoc numbers, OCLC record numbers, or archival locations. Researchers should, with a quick reference to the entry and access to WorldCat, be able to immediately identify a library or archive that holds a given report. The volume is indexed by presidential administration and by commission name. This volume is especially appropriate for law libraries and research libraries. Steven Knowlton, Princeton University.

Women in American History: A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection. Edited by Peg A. Lamphier and Rosanne Welch. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, [2017]. 4 vols. $415 hardcover (ISBN 9781610696029). E-book also available (ISBN: 9781610636036).

The subtitle of this encyclopedia is indicative of its ambitious scope. The work encompasses not only capsule biographies of important historical figures, but also discussions of law, cultural mores, economics, and political movements as factors in women’s lives throughout American history. Each volume covers a separate time period, and within the time period presents a historical overview, numerous alphabetical entries interspersed with occasional primary sources, a thematic issues essay, and a bibliography. In addition, each entry includes suggestions for further reading. Throughout the work, the editors have ensured that the emphasis upon providing social and legal context for the discussion within any entry is maintained, and this gives the reader a better sense of the work of historians than do many historical encyclopedias. Any researcher beginning with this volume will be well served in framing a research question appropriate to the era and the field of women’s history. The entire work is thoroughly indexed. Appropriate for all libraries, but especially for public and school libraries. Steven Knowlton, Princeton University.

British Library, World War One, Reviewed 1/16/2019

The British Library brings together materials from various institutions across Europe in this comprehensive website focusing on Europe in World War I. The website features over 500 items including photographs, videos, diaries, books, cartoons, and other types of materials that provide evidence about the ways that Europeans experienced the war on both sides of the conflict. Users can explore materials by theme, search using keywords, and filter collections by years, languages, creators, and formats. In addition to the digitized collections, the website also features articles written by historical experts, interviews, and teaching resources with lesson plans designed for middle and high school students. This resource is suitable for any type of library and would be helpful for researchers of any skill level interested in World War I as well as middle school and high school teachers interested in teaching with primary resources. Mackenzie Ryan, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas

WW1 – The Definitive Collection, from British Pathé, Reviewed 1/16/2019

British Pathé, a newsreel and documentary production company, holds an extensive collection of archival film footage from World War I. Now available online, the footage provides a rare glimpse into various aspects of life during the Great War. The films in this collection are international in scope and organized into categories such as political leaders including President Woodrow Wilson and Tsar Nicholas II, battles and types of warfare, and experiences of civilians during and after the war. Users can also search for films by keyword; the results are drawn not only from the World War I collection but also the entire catalog of British Pathé’s film archives. Each film includes a short summary and description with options to view the films in full screen or as individual stills. The website is an excellent source for researchers of any level interested in primary source materials on World War I and may be of particular interest to those in academic and research libraries. Mackenzie Ryan, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas

Carole Levin, Anna Riehl Bertolet, and Jo Eldridge Carney, eds., A Biographical Encyclopedia of Early Modern Englishwomen: Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts, 1500-1650 (New York: Routledge, 2017); ISBN: 9780754669005.  One volume, 630 pages.

This encyclopedia presents brief, signed, biographies of over 700 women who lived in England between 1500 and 1650. It groups women into 22 categories, primarily along occupational lines, but including categories for “Travelers,” “Litigants,” “Women at Court,” and other topical headings.  Each category is preceded by a brief introduction, and each entry includes a brief bibliography of sources. It is useful for beginning research on women and to demonstrate the wide variety of fields in which women participated in the early modern era. Includes an index by name and by contributor (with affiliation). Audience: General through researchers. Recommended for large public libraries and academic libraries.
$149.95 (print edition; e-book edition reviewed)
Date Reviewed: 12/5/17

Katherine A.S. Sibley, ed., A Companion to First Ladies (Malden, Mass.: John Wiley and Sons, 2016); ISBN: 9781118732229.  One volume, 741 pages.

This resource provides essays about the First Ladies of the United States in chronological arrangement. Most essays describe one First Lady and several First Ladies are discussed in two or more essays. Several essays summarize the lives of multiple First Ladies. The variation depends on the number of presidential terms, number of first ladies per president, and the lack of details for multiples in one essay. This work updates the First Ladies through Michelle Obama. The resource includes notes on the contributing authors, including credential information. The information provides a view First Ladies through a new lens, about the individual importance of the Lady beyond the White House.
$204.95 (print edition; e-book edition reviewed)
Date Reviewed: 12/08/2017

Digital Library on American Slavery

The University of North Carolina Libraries provide access to digital collections of primary resources concerning slavery. These include metadata and digital copies of the original documents. The Digital Library on American Slavery is well organized, includes several collections such as the Race and Slavery Petitions Project, and offers access to additional collections provided by other institutions. The resource continues to add collections, such as the North Carolina Slave Deeds now in development, and metadata are available for libraries to link to digital artifacts. One of the linked collections includes summarized information about life insurance (on individual slaves) sold to slave owners. These resources help tell the story of slavery by introducing the context of slavery in the terms of slaves’ daily life, concerns of non-slave owners, and actions of slave owners. A must review for historians of slavery, the United States of the period, and related fields.
Free Resource (Online)
Date Reviewed: 12/08/2017

Helaine Selin, ed., Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures, Third edition (Dordrecht: Springer, 2016); ISBN: 9789400777460. Five volumes, 4071 pages.

Alphabetically arranged entries provide broad coverage of science, indigenous knowledge, religion and science, and biographies of known individuals from Africa, Asia, South American, and Indigenous cultures of Australia and the Americas. Articles are significantly revised from the 2008 edition and topic coverage is expanded. It contains charts, graphs, and illustrations. Articles include bibliographies (international in scope) for further research. Recommended for large public libraries, academic libraries, and special libraries.
$2900 (print or e-book)
Date Reviewed: 12/5/17

Walter R.T. Witschey, ed., Encyclopedia of the Ancient Maya (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016); ISBN: 9780759122840.  One volume, 538 pages.

Introduces the culture, art, archaeology, and history of the Maya to novices and updates the scholarship, archaeological findings, and significant research of the past two decades. Individual entries vary in length from one to two paragraphs to two pages, include see-also references, and lists of further readings. Entries are arranged alphabetically and are supplemented by a topical index, a chronology, maps and illustrations, a glossary, a bibliography, and a listing of research institutions and internet sites. Suitable for public, academic, and special collections, general readers through researchers.
$95.00 (print or e-book)
Date Reviewed: 12/6/17

Falola, Toyin, and Akíntúndé Akínyẹmí, eds., Encyclopedia of the Yoruba (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016); ISBN: 9780253021335.  One volume, 371 pages.

Prominent historian Falola and cultural scholar Akinyemi have edited this single-volume encyclopedia of the Yoruba people, who live in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo, as well as in diaspora in Europe and the United States.  While it covers topics traditionally classified as history, it has a strong emphasis on religion, folklore, and cultural practices, which provide crucial context to narrative history.  Lengthy articles cover topics at a level of depth that is unusual for a single-volume reference work.    This volume gathers in one place important information from a variety of disciplines that will prove essential to helping newcomers to West African history understanding the culture and milieu from which Yoruba history arose.
$120.00 (print)
Date Reviewed: 12/06/17

KKK Newspapers / Hate in America: The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s at

When the re-formed Ku Klux Klan reached its peak of influence in the mid-1920s, more than four million members were exposed to reactionary rhetoric through widely distributed newspapers produced by local, state, and national branches of the KKK, as well as affiliated publishers.  Few libraries at the time collected the newspapers, however, making it difficult for later researchers to access these scattered titles.  Reveal Digital, using a “crowdfunding” financial model, is digitizing and making available via open access a growing number of Klan newspapers.

By the end of the 2017, the database had 19 titles published between 1921 and 1932. They are full-text searchable and include page images with illustrations and advertisements.  With interest in right-wing rhetoric on the rise in both the academy and among public library patrons, this database provides a timely and useful resources for studying its history.
Some portions open access; others require a fee.
Date Reviewed: 12/06/17

Cavanagh, Edward, and Lorenzo Veracini, eds., The Routledge Handbook of the History of Settler Colonialism (New York: Routledge, 2017); ISBN: 9780415742160. One volume, 469 pages.

Settler colonialism – the conquest and occupation of foreign lands with the intention of permanent settlement – is often thought of as a development of early modern period, originating from Europe.  However, the editors of this volume take an expansive view of the phenomenon, tracing it from the Assyrian Empire and ancient Israel to nineteenth-century Hokkaido and twentieth-century New Zealand.  In 30 extensive chapters, invited authors provide lengthy historical overviews of settler colonialism in selected geographic regions, as well as discussions of historiography, economic, trade, and cultural factors driving the movement of peoples, and the impact of settler colonialism on the indigenous inhabitants being displaced.  Coverage of racial ideology is thorough, as well.   While formal historiography is not a concern of this volume, the authors do point to essential works in their bibliographies.  Each entry is an essential introduction to settler colonialism in its regional history.
$250.00 (print)
Date Reviewed: 12/05/17

TRIP HISTORIC: travel like an expert

Trip Historic is a unique online resource, developed by Mike Lewis and his team, providing images and context for travelers about historic sites around the world. Anyone is free to use the site and travelers may become “community members” with extended privileges on the site. The home page offers searching by country, date/historic period, and keyword. As a beta site, the information is broad, with opportunity for growth through user suggestions and member additions. While not a scholarly resource, the tool links general users with historic sights to plan visits during their travels. Trip Historic offers a public appeal within the confines of history. All libraries benefit from this tool geared toward the general public.
Free Resource (Online Community-Based)
Date Reviewed: 12/08/2017

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