There are many helpful specialized scholarly encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks in Widener and other libraries that can give you an overview of a specific topic. You can try searching in HOLLIS for your subject (see the HOLLIS page for finding the proper Subject terms) plus the words encyclopedias or dictionaries. Thus: “United States” AND Immigration AND (encyclopedias OR dictionaries).

The Oxford handbook of ethnicity, crime, and immigration, ed. by Sandra M. Bucerius and Michael Tonry. Oxford; NY: Oxford University Press, 2014, 960 pages

Routledge handbook on human rights and the Middle East and North Africa, ed. by Anthony Tirado Chase. Abingdon, Oxon; NY: Routledge, 2017, 521 pages

American immigration: an encyclopedia of political, social, and cultural change, ed. by James Ciment and John Radzilowski. 2nd ed. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2014. 4 volumes.

Anti-immigration in the United States: a historical encyclopedia, ed. by Kathleen R. Arnold. Santa Barbara, Calif. : Greenwood Press, 2011,  2 v.

Dictionary of American immigration history, ed. by Francesco Cordasco Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1990, 784 p.

Encyclopedia of American immigration, ed. by James Ciment. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2001. 4 v.

Encyclopedia of diasporas: immigrant and refugee cultures around the world, ed. by Melvin Ember, Carol R. Ember, and Ian Skoggard. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum, 2004. 2 v.

Encyclopedia of Ellis Island, by Barry Moreno. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004, 321 p.

Encyclopedia of immigration and migration in the American West, ed. by Gordon Morris Bakken & Alexandra Kindell. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2006. 2 v

Immigration and asylum: from 1900 to the present, ed. by Matthew J. Gibney and Randall Hansen. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2005. 3 v.

The making of modern immigration:an encyclopedia of people and ideas, ed. by Patrick J. Hayes. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2012. 1 online resource (865 p.)
HOLLIS Record with Online Version

Undocumented immigrants in the United States: an encyclopedia of their experience, ed. by Anna Ochoa O'Leary. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood, 2014. 2 volumes

U.S. immigration: a reference handbook, by Michael C. LeMay. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2004, 283 p.
HOLLIS record with online table of contents
--Offers historical overview of post-1965 immigration policy. Lists organizations, with bibliography of books, government reports, and websites. Chronology (1740-2002).

What other things were happening at that time?

The following books offer historical overviews of particular eras of American history

American eras:
Development of a nation, 1783-1815 FindIt@Harvard
Westward expansion, 1800-1860  FindIt@Harvard
The reform era and eastern U.S. development, 1815-1850 FindIt@Harvard
Civil war and reconstruction, 1850-1877 FindIt@Harvard
Development of the industrial United States, 1878-1899 FindIt@Harvard

American decades 11 volumes. Covers, decade by decade, 1900-2009 FindIt@Harvard

Almanacs of American life:
Civil War America, 1850 to 1875 FindIt@Harvard
Victorian America, 1876 to 1913 FindIt@Harvard
Modern America, 1914 to 1945 FindIt@Harvard
Cold War America, 1946 to 1990 FindIt@Harvard

Notable Asian Americans, ed by Helen Zia and Susan B. Gall. New York : Gale Research, 1995, 468 p.

Distinguished Asian Americans : a biographical dictionary, ed. by Hyung-chan Kim. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999, 430 p.

Who's who among Asian Americans. Detroit : Gale Research Inc., 1994. 1 v. 

Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, ed. by Gary Y. Okihiro. Ispwich, Mass.: Salem Press, 2013. 3 v.

General Sources

American National Biography is the standard American source for biographies of major figures. Can do searches of occupations and limit by date.

World Biographical Information System includes full text of thousands of biographical dictionaries accessible by name of biographee.

Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI) indexes thousands of English-language biographical dictionaries and other compendia. Not full text; one must do HOLLIS searches for retrieved sources.

Biography in Context includes full text of many reference books, including Contemporary Authors, Contemporary Black Biography, Directory of American Scholars (10th (2002) ed.), Dictionary of American Biography, Marquis Who’s Who on the Web since 1985. The Biographical Facts Search allows search by occupation, nationality, ethnicity (African-American, Asian- American, Hispanic- American, Native- American only), gender, birth/death year, and place.

Additional sources in Finding Biographical Information.