Sources in Colonial and Early American History

Sources in Colonial and Early American History

See also: Colonial and Early American Newspapers & Major Microform Sets
Preparation for Research

Become familiar with your library and its resources and services. The Library Website will lead you to information about the physical layout of the Rivera Library, hours, and descriptions of services useful to researchers (such as Reference Services and Interlibrary Loan).  It is also the gateway to a variety of electronic resources, including journal article databases like America:History and Life & Arts & Humanities Citation Index, the UCR Library Catalog SCOTTY (books and journals at UCR), the MELVYL Catalog (books at all UC libraries), and electronic journals.

Many of the electronic resources you will use are made available by the California Digital Library (CDL), the University of California's electronic library system, including databases of various kinds, electronic journals, and the MELVYL Catalog.  New resources are constantly added.

Remote Access - - Critical Information!

To make the fullest use of our electronic resources you will need to access one of the campus remote access servers.  Visit for more information.

Getting Started/Background Information

With the aid of some good background reading, concepts can be isolated, appropriate terminology determined, and related subjects or disciplines identified.  In addition to course readings and human resources (e.g., your professor), some sources for background information are specialized encyclopedias:
Encyclopedia of American Social History 
Dictionary of American History
Dictionary of the History of Ideas
Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies 
Ref. HN57 E58
Ref. E174 A3 1975
Ref. CB5 D52
Ref. E45 E53 1993

Most good encyclopedias, books, and articles include bibliographies listing further sources that can be checked by author or title in SCOTTY or the Melvyl Catalog.

Locate a Guide to the Literature of History

A guide to the literature is a reference book which identifies the standand works and major writings in a particular discipline.  Guides can save considerable time by recommending the most important material in the field.  Suggested guides for the purpose of this course are:
American Historical Association's Guide to Historical Literature
Harvard Guide to American History
Handbook for Research in American History
United States History: a selective guide to information sources
Ref. Z6201 A55 1995
Ref. Z1236 F77 1974
Ref. Z1236 P78 1994
Ref. Z1236 B57 1994 

Locate Bibliographies

Specialized bibliographies exist to provide listings of articles and books on specific subjects.  To locate a bibliography on your topic, check the SCOTTY, Melvyl, or WorldCat Catalogs under your subject with the subdivision BIBLIOGRAPHY.
Example:    United States History Colonial Period Ca 1600 1775 Bibliography 
Some important bibliographies for the study of American history are part of Rivera's reference collection:

Bibliography of the Public Archives of the Thirteen Original States
Bibliographies in American History : Guide to Materials for Research
Books about early America : 2001 titles
Revolutionary America 1763-1789
Ref. Z1237 H38 1908 
Ref. Z1236 A1 B4 
Ref. Z1236 I57 1989 
Ref. Z1238 G43 1984  

Identify and Locate Primary Sources

Primary sources include diaries, letters, autobiographies, documents, & newspapers and periodicals published during the period you are studying. Listed here are some suggestions for finding primary sources, as well as some primary source collections available on microfilm.
  1. Manuscripts and Archives:  to locate guides to manuscripts and archival collections, use the subjectheading MANUSCRIPTS CATALOGS, and/or ARCHIVES UNITED STATES.
    Some of the major guides to manuscripts are:

    Guide to Archives andManuscripts in the United States
    Directory of Archives and Manuscripts Repositories in the U.S
    National Union Catalog Manuscript Collections
    Index to Personal Names in the NUCMC 
    Guide to the National Archives of the United States
    Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the U.S. 
    Ref. CD3022 A45 1961
    Ref. CD3020 V54 1978
    Ref. Z6620 U5 N3
    Ref. Z6620 U5 I53 1988
    Ref. CD3023 U53 1987
    Ref. CD3022 A2 D48 1994 

  2. Collections of primary source materials:consult the SCOTTY, Melvyl or WorldCat catalogs under your subject heading with the subdivision SOURCES.  

    Example:  United States History Colonial Period Ca 1600 1775 Sources
    Example:  The public records of the colony of Connecticut [1636-1776] ...

  3. Microform collections:  many primary sources are now available in microfilm or microcards.  Some useful sources for identifying appropriate microform collections are:

    American bibliography
    Supplement to Charles Evans' American bibliography
    National index of American imprints through 1800; the short-title Evans
    Microform Research Collections: a guide
    Guide to Research Collections on Microform in the UC Libraries
    Ref. Z1215 E9
    Ref. Z1215 E93
    Ref. Z1215 E9 1969
    Ref. Z1033 M5 D64 1984
    Ref. Z1033 M5 G85 

    Some selected microform collections: (Check SCOTTY, Melvyl, and theWorldCat catalog for the collection guides and availability)

    Early American Imprints, Series I 1639-1800
    Early American Imprints, Series II 1801-1819
    Pamphlets in American History
    American Culture Series, 1493-1875
    Records of the Ante-bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War
    Black Abolitionist Papers
    American Women's Diaries

  4. Newspapers: to identify newspapers published during your time period, consult:
    See Colonial and Early American Newspapers for more information

    Early American Newspapers
    History and Bibliography of American Newspapers 1690-1820
    Chronological Tables of American Newspapers
    Ref. Z6947 R4 1978
    Ref. Z6951 B75 1947
    Ref. Z6951 L35
  1. Periodicals: to identify periodicals published during your time period, consult:

    A History of American Magazines
    American periodicals, 1741-1900 : an index to the microfilm collections
    Ref. PN4877 M68
    Ref. Z6051 H65
  1. Diaries: to identify diaries of individuals, use Laura Asker's:

    American Diaries, Vol. 1: 1492-1844 Ref. Z5305 U5A74 1983 

  2. Miscellaneous:

    Maps and Charts Published in America before 1800 Science Map Ref. GA405 W47 1978 
  3. Primary Sources Online
    American Periodicals Series Online, 1740-1900
    North American Women's Letters and Diaries (NWLD) 
    American Drama, 1714-1915
    American Poetry, 1600-1900
    Pennsylvania Gazette (Colonial Newspaper, 1728-1800)- CD-ROM Network
    Colonial Connecticut Records [1636-1776] ...
    American Memory Collection via Library of Congress
Last modified: 4/22/2008 3:08 PM by by Z. Wang

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