Skip to Main Content

Finding scholarly literature on a topic in history

Is there already a bibliography for my topic?

If you are working on a topic that is of interest to many other historians, you may find that someone has already compiled a bibliography for you. To find book-length bibliographies on a topic in library catalogs, use the advanced search to look for "bibliography" as a subject and your topic as a keyword. In Princeton's catalog, use the Advanced Search in the newer interface to the catalog, or the Guided Search option in the Main Catalog interface. 

For shorter bibliographies and for topics for which you can't find a book-length bibliography, consult a reference book. First, here are three guides with essays that describe the major work by historians on a topic. All are particularly useful to the student trying to decide what to read first:

  • Reader's guide to American history. Editor, Peter J. Parish. London; Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.
    History Reference (SH). Firestone
    Call number: Z1236 .R43 1997
  • Reader's guide to British history. David Loades, editor. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2003.
    History Reference (SH). Firestone
    Call number: DA34 .R43 2003
  • Reader's guide to the history of science. Edited by Arne Hessenbruch. London; Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000.
    History Reference (SH). Firestone
    Call number: Q125 .R335 2000

If your topic is covered, Oxford Bibliographies Online is a great starting point.

If your topic is the history of American foreign relations, the best starting point is:

  • American foreign relations since 1600: a guide to the literature. Robert L. Beisner, editor. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, c2003.
    Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR)
    Call number: Z6465.U5 G84 2003
    American Foreign Relations Since 1600

If your topic is a (famous dead) American or British person, the best starting point is:

Finally, you may find it helpful to consult:

  • The American Historical Association's guide to historical literature. General editor, Mary Beth Norton; associate editor, Pamela Gerardi. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
    Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR): Ready Reference
    Call Number: Z6201 .A55 1995

    This is a list of recommended reading, arranged geographically and chronologically. Caution: the AHA Guide was compiled in 1995, so you will need to supplement it by searching the Main Catalog for more recent items.