Reference Sources

Use HOLLIS to find books useful for overviews, context and background such as subject encyclopedias (Example), including ones contemporary with your era of interest (Example).

Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks are handy for getting a quick general overview of a specific topic. You can try searching in HOLLIS for your Subject plus the words encyclopedias OR dictionaries OR handbooks. 

For example "United States" AND "Intellectual history" AND (encyclopedias or dictionaries) yields:

The Oxford encyclopedia of American cultural and intellectual history,

Encyclopedia of American cultural & intellectual history

Also try your topic combined with the Title keyword Companion in HOLLIS Advanced search

Wittgenstein (Keyword or Subject)
Companion (Title keyword)

To find individual encyclopedia articles in HOLLIS, using HOLLIS Everything, do a Title search on your topic and in the results list look for Resource Type under Refine Your Results in the right-hand column. Choose Reference entries.

Cambridge Histories Online cover 14 subject areas including General History, Regional History, Literary Studies, Philosophy and Religion

Oxford Reference Online Premium Collection.  To see the reference books included, choose ‘Browse & search books’ in the left hand column.  Under Refine by Subject, the + signs allow another layer of narrowing.
Contains dictionary, language reference, and subject reference works published by Oxford University Press. It is a fully-indexed, cross-searchable database of these books. A broad subject range from titles in the Oxford Companions Series is available, as are other standard sources, such as the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, dictionaries of African, Asian, Celtic and other mythologies,etc.

Search the Oxford Handbooks and the Cambridge and Blackwell Companions with searches of the form:

Eugenics AND ("oxford handbook" OR "Cambridge companion" OR "Blackwell companion")

Cambridge companions online

Blackwell has published hundreds of Blackwell companions on a wide variety of subjects divided into the following series.  Find them in HOLLIS by searching as a phrase (in “”) and limiting to Resource Type Books in the left hand column.  To limit to books available at Harvard and to whole books rather than chapters, use ‘Show only’ at top of Refine My Results column.

  • Blackwell companions in art history
  • Blackwell companions in cultural studies
  • Blackwell companions to American history
  • Blackwell companions to American history. Presidential companions
  • Blackwell companions to ancient history
  • Blackwell companions to anthropology
  • Blackwell companions to art history
  • Blackwell companions to British history
  • Blackwell companions to contemporary economics
  • Blackwell companions to European history
  • Blackwell companions to geography
  • Blackwell companions to history
  • Blackwell companions to linguistics series
  • Blackwell companions to literature and culture
  • Blackwell companions to philosophers
  • Blackwell companions to philosophy
  • Blackwell companions to religion
  • Blackwell companions to sociology
  • Blackwell companions to the ancient world
  • Blackwell companions to the ancient world Ancient history
  • Blackwell companions to the ancient world. Literature and culture
  • Blackwell companions to world history

Histoire-Hypermédia is an online guide to historical reference works, both printed and online.

Encyclopedia of American StudiesMore Information.

CQ Press Electronic Library: Political Reference Suite contains many historical sources.

Dictionary of Regional American English (DARE)

Historical Periods
Oxford Classical Dictionary
Encyclopedia of Early Christianity
Dictionary of the Middle Ages
Encyclopedia of the Renaissance
Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation

For additional subject encyclopedias see Library Guide to Online Encyclopedias.

Reference books on history are located in the East end of the Loker Reading Room (Widener 2nd floor). Their catalog records can be browsed online in HOLLIS by selecting Browse HOLLIS by...  and adjusting the menu to Other call number.

Reading Room History Call Numbers

RR3601 History -- Guides and bibliographies -- General
RR3602 History -- Guides and bibliographies -- Medieval
RR3603 History -- Guides and bibliographies -- Modern
RR3607 History -- Encyclopedias, dictionaries
RR3608 History -- Encyclopedias, dictionaries -- Medieval
RR3609 History -- Encyclopedias, dictionaries -- Modern
RR3611 History -- Encyclopedias, dictionaries, summaries of current events -- Twentieth Century
RR3614 History -- Registers of rulers, officeholders, etc.
RR3616 History -- Chronologies
RR3617 History -- Books of dates
RR3618 Calendar
RRHistory, Area studies -- Individual countries and regions
RR3620-3642 United States
RR3644 Canada
RR3651-3689 Latin America
RR3701-3721 Great Britain
RR3724 Ireland
RR3731-3750 France
RR3761-3767 Spain
RR3799 Italy
RR3821-3827 Germany
RR3851 Belgium
RR3855 Scandinavia
RR3866-3901 Russia & Eastern Europe
RR3908 Byzantium
RR3910 Asia
RR3911-3918 Middle East
RR3925 South Asia/India
RR3930-3940 Southeast Asia
RR3944 China
RR3950 Japan
RR3961 Australia & New Zealand
RR3970-3995 Africa

Subject Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

Contemporary subject encyclopedias and dictionaries are useful in interpreting primary sources. They can be found by an Advanced Search in the HOLLIS Catalog with, e.g., <Medicine dictionaries> [Keyword search], limited by year range.

Gould, George M. (George Milbry), 1848-1922.
An illustrated dictionary of medicine, biology and allied sciences ...
3d ed. rev.
Philadelphia, Blakiston, 1897, c1894.

Subject: Medicine--Dictionaries.
Natural history--Dictionaries.

These books are usually shelved toward the beginning of each subject class in the Old Widener system.

Notable Encyclopedias of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: Nine Predecessors of the Encyclopedie, by F. A. Kafker. (Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 194). Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1981, 252 pp.

A short-title list of subject dictionaries of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as aids to the history of ideas, by Giorgio Tonelli. London, Warburg Institute, 1971, 64 p

A short-title catalog of subject dictionaries of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries in Special Collections, the Library of the School of Library and Information Science, the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.  (WHSTC library catalog no. 18.) London: University of Western Ontario, 1984, 108 leaves.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th ed. Cambridge, England., 1910-1922. Widener  RR 2003.2
Child Memorial Ch M 15 
Lamont REF.ROOM AE5 .E363x 1910
Houghton Seminar Room  
Theatre Collection HTC-LC AE5 .E36
Cabot Science REF AE5 .E36 1910