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Expo E-42B | Imperialism and Empire in Modern U.S. History

Falll 2020

Welcome From Your Course Librarian

This resource guide has been designed by Harvard librarians for students in IMPERIALISM AND EMPIRE IN MODERN U.S. HISTORY, a Fall 2020 advanced writing class taught by Ariane Liazos.

The resources and strategies described on this page are specifically targeted: they represent our first best guesses at where you might find easy and more-or-less-comprehensive access to both the scholarly conversations and primary documents upon which your term project will be built.

Remember that good research is often about following up on hunches, testing out a hypothesis and then seeing where else (or to what else) it leads. You may need to try several search combinations before you strike gold. 

Let me know if questions arise at any point in your project. We'll triage by email or set up a time to meet on Zoom for a longer conversation about your work.  

Enjoy your research adventures!

Sue Gilroy, Librarian for Undergraduate Programs for Writing, Lamont Library

Image above, right: War Map Publishing Company, and F. H. Taylor. Strategic map of our war with Spain. [S.l, 1898] Map.


The Multidisciplinary Research Database


  • JSTOR: trusted; covers core  scholarly journals in 75 fields.  Some of its content is open access and easily discoverable on the web; some is made available only because of your Harvard affiliation and the library's subscription to JSTOR. The most recent issues of journals may not even appear in a JSTOR search, however, if they are behind the database's 1-5 year "moving wall." 

  • Google Scholar: familiar and current; searches full-text which can be an advantage when you've got a very narrow topic or are seeking a "nugget" that traditional database searching can't surface easily. 

Google Scholar incorporates more types of information -- not just books and journal contents-- and depending on your need, comfort level, and perspective, that eclecticism can be an advantage.  

GS is perfectly acceptable for most general forays into scholarship; its algorithms are excellent and do return relevant results.  GS can also be a good way to follow citation trails.

  • Social Science Premium Collection: searches contents from databases that, individually, cover sociology, politics, policy, and international relations (among other fields). 


HOLLIS: A Key Research Resource




1.  Understand what it is.

HOLLIS combines the extensive contents of our library catalog, the record every item owned by every Harvard Library with those of another, large and multidisciplinary database of journal, newspaper, and magazine articles. 


When you search "everything"  searching both of these databases together, at once. For better or for worse, "everything" is our system default. 


2. Know how to work it.

Creating search strings with some of the techniques below can help you get better results up front. 




3. Take control of your results.

While the broad and panoramic approach to searching HOLLIS can be mind-opening, you can sometimes find yourself overwhelmed by either the numbers or types of results your search returns.


When that happens, try one of these easy tricks:


Limit your Everything search results set just to the items listed in the LIBRARY CATALOG.

Your numbers will immediately get smaller. Keep in mind, though, that the results will be heavily weighted toward book-length studies.


Limit your Everything search results set to items that are identified as PEER REVIEWED ARTICLES.

You'll eliminate newspaper and magazine materials as well as books, of course, but you'll also raise the visibility of scholarly journal articles in what displays. 


Think about limiting your results to publications from the last 5, 10, 15, or 20 years.

By doing so you'll get a snapshot of the most recent research trends and scholarly approaches in a field (or around a particular issue).

Experiment with limiting your searches to materials available  
You'll reduce your numbers of books by a wide margin, not often a good strategy, but an expedient one in exigent circumstances.  Learn more about strategies under the Pandemic Considerations tab. 





Despite the fact that our physical items are unavailable and buildings are shuttered, HOLLIS can and should continue to be a key research resource, wherever students are.  That's in part because of the sheer size and enormous variety of what it contains, but also because the content students can surface there is substantial.  

Here are some ways to think through your digital options in HOLLIS

1. Scan & Deliver

This service, free to Harvard students even before the pandemic, can be a lifesaver when you find something in the catalog that's essential -- but only available in print.

Scan & Deliver allows you to request a PDF of an article, a portion of a book (and now, a portion of a special collection, under some circumstances). Just remember that the library staff  responsible for this service are returning to campus slowly, so the response time (usually within 4 days) may be delayed.

NOTE: Initiate Scan and Deliver requests through HOLLIS.

2. Hathi Trust Temporary Emergency Access Library 

IHathiTrust has a digitized copy, you'll be able to check it out, reserves-style. Presently, loans are given for 1 hour, automatically renewable if there's no waiting list for the item you're using.

Hathi Trust materials can't be downloaded or printed out (when they're in copyrright), but the upside is that you'll have excellent access to our collection in print, even when you can't use the print. 

Normally, your access to HathiTrust items is seamless via Harvard; when you see the record details, click on the   link to initiate check out.

NOTE: If you go directly into HathiTrust through the link above, be sure you click on the button, top right  and choose Harvard University.

3. Internet Archive Open Library

For books not available online via a HOLLIS link or through HathiTrust, the Open Library may be a good next step. You'll need to create a free account to "check out" books (temporarily, for up to 2 weeks).  

4. Lamont West Door Pickup (if you're in / near Cambridge)

Materials that are available for checkout are requested online via HOLLIS; they are paged for you by library staff. When they are ready, you receive an email directing you to schedule a pick up time (15-minutes windows, as available)



When you're far from Cambridge, identifying books in print and on shelves in Harvard's library buildings can seem like a futile exercise. You can, however, often get your hands on items your find in HOLLIS even if you live many miles away from the Yard.


1.  WorldCatthis is a database of library catalogs and useful for identifying college, university, and other  library collections that are in your vicinity.  Search for the title and then enter your ZIPCODE to identify your options.

With WorldCat, you're going beyond the BorrowDirect consortium and beyond our reciprocal lending agreements.  However, as long as any of the area libraries allow you in (often a phone call or a scan of the website will clarify policy), you'll be in luck!

2. Check the catalog of the large PUBLIC LIBRARY in your area.  Depending on the region, the size of the library, its mission, and its funding, a local public library may have a significant research component to its collection (The Boston Public Library at Copley Square is a prime example), including e-books and some digitized materials that Harvard may not have.

Public libraries large and small also have access to ebooks, and can be a rich alternative source if Harvard doesn't have what you need or you can't get to our copy.

Moreover, because you are a Harvard student, you're eligible for a BPL ecard, no matter where you're Zooming in from these days; you'll need to sign in with your Harvard email and key to get access, however. See BPL: Who's Eligible for an Ecard? for the registration link.


3. Ask your local library about an INTERLIBRARY LOAN.  Libraries routinely borrow from each other on behalf of their patrons; if you have a library card, you should be able to request it (or have a librarian do so).  ILL can take a bit of time, however. You might wait a week or a bit more before the item arrives. Some places charge a small fee for the service. 

5. If you live close by the college or university from which you graduated, ask about ALUMNI PRIVILEGES there; even in COVID times, it's good to check on your options.

Subject Databases and Bibliographies: Deep Access to the Scholarly Record

Research projects often require you to look close up at a body of inquiry produced by scholars in a particular field.

This research is typically collected, codified, and made findable in a tool called a subject database. You'll use them to complement, supplement (and sometimes, depending on the project, instead of) HOLLIS, JSTOR, or Google Scholar.

Every academic discipline has at least one subject database that's considered the disciplinary gold standard -- a reliable, (relatively) comprehensive, and accurate record of the books that scholars are publishing, and the ideas they're debating and discussing in important and influential journals. 

Databases are like lenses: they change what you see in research and how you see it -- and they offer you easy and efficient ways to bring your questions into sharper focus.

Three to consider for your project in EXPO E-42b:

Uncovering Primary Sources Online: Genre and Formats




Since coverage is from c.1780-1940, this database will be best for topics related to the Philippines and the Spanish American War. It includes special interest and general magazines (e.g., Harper's Bazaar, Puck), prominent literary and professional journals (e.g. Dial), children's and women's magazines (e.g., Vanity Fair) and many other historically-significant periodicals.

Starting in 1962, the records of the AP's Saigon office report on the escalation of U.S. involvement and the increasing casualties experienced by U.S. armed forces. The AP message wires are usually not complete stories, and do not always provide background information, though a few ready-to-publish articles exist in the records. Researchers will find reports covering everything from the pivotal moments of the war to its most mundane aspects, and insight into the life of war correspondents and photojournalists. The documents focus on North and South Vietnam, but coverage includes U.S. and South Vietnamese involvement in Laos and Cambodia. The AP Saigon office served as a clearinghouse for a large percentage of Vietnam-related news read or heard by the American public. (See also, ProQuest History Vault, Vietnam War and American Foreign Policy, 1960-1975)

English translations of  selected broadcasts, news agency transmissions, newspapers, periodicals, and government statements from nations around the world, made by a cadre of CIA intelligence operatives during WWII and after.  Considered the United States' principal record of political and historical open source intelligence. While searching, limiting and filtering are all easily done in FBIS, there are several curated sub-colllections which may be of interest to students in E42B: American Race Relations: Global Perspectives, 1941-1996; The Cold War: Global Perspectives on East-West Tensions, 1945-1991; and World Protest and Reform Movements, 1945-1996

A digital collection of alternative press newspapers, magazines and journals, drawn from the special collections of participating libraries, including Harvard. These periodicals were produced by feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Hispanics, LGBT activists, the extreme right-wing press and alternative literary magazines during the latter half of the 20th century.

America's oldest weekly magazine, founded by abolitionists in 1865 and still considered one of the country's definitive, indiependent  journalistic of opinion on politics and culture. 

Full text and full-image articles from African American newspapers: Atlanta daily world (1931-2003), Baltimore Afro-American (1893-1988), Chicago defender (1910-1975), Cleveland call & post (1934-1991), Los Angeles sentinel (1934-2005), New York Amsterdam news (1922-1993), Norfolk journal & guide (1921-2003), Philadelphia tribune (1912-2001), and the Pittsburgh courier (1911-2002)

Search across the contents of major U.S. dailies, including the New York TimesWashington Post,  Los Angeles TimesBaltimore Sun, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia InquirerSt. Louis Post and Dispatch, and the Wall Street Journal. 

Contents of many of the most important and hightest-circulating general interest and public opinion magazines published in the U.S. and Canada for much of the 20th century.





Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive curates the word's largest and most comprehensive non-governmental collection of declassified U.S. documents. In 50+ subject collections (including materials on Afghanistan, Iraqgate, Iran-Contra, and the Iranian Revolution), the DNSA covers U.S. foreign policy, intelligence and security issues during the pivotal period of twentieth-century history. Subject collections are always prefaced by an introductory essay that provides historical context, explains the methodology behind the document selections, and identifies their potential research value. 

  • FRUS [Foreign Relations of the United States]

Produced by the Office of the Historian at the U.S. Department of State, the Foreign Relations of the United States presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity. FRUS volumes contain documents from Presidential libraries, Departments of State and Defense, National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency, the Agency for International Development, other foreign affairs agencies and the private papers of important individuals involved in formulating U.S. foreign policy. In general, the editors choose documentation that illuminates policy formulation and major aspects and repercussions of its execution.

The Vietnam War is considered the most well-documented event in U.S. history and FRUS volumes covering it are accompanied by a special research guide.

A source for current and historical full-text access to legislation, hearings, witness testimony, legislative and committee reports, and more.

Covers U.S. involvement in the region from the early days of the Kennedy administration, through the escalation of the war during the Johnson administration, to the final resolution of the war at the Paris Peace Talks and the evacuation of U.S. troops in 1973. Along the way, documents in this module trace the actions and decisions at the highest levels of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus, as well as events on the ground in Vietnam, from the perspective of State Department officials, Associated Press reporters, and members of the U.S. Armed forces, including the Marines and the Military Assistance Command Vietnam. The strong collections also highlight all of the most important foreign policy issues facing the U.S. between 1960 and 1975.

The declassified documentary record about the successes and failures of the U.S. intelligence community in the Far East during the Cold War (1945-1991). Particular emphasis is given to America’s principal antagonists in Asia during the Cold War era: the People’s Republic of China, North Korea and North Vietnam. However, countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia are covered as well.




Documentaries, newsreels and features that reveals the world as seen by Soviet, Chinese, Vietnamese, East European, British and Latin American filmmakers. It ranges from the early twentieth century to the 1980s and examines the themes of war and revolution, culture and society, and current affairs.. 







Finding Primary Sources in HOLLIS



  • Sometimes, adding the word sources to a keyword string will retrieve published collections of primary source materials.  Other words that you can try include reader document* (for documents and documentary); readeranthologycasebook

  • Using the right side limits, adjust the DATE PARAMETERS of your search results. Items that were published on the subject during the period you specify will qualify as primary sources.  

  • Using the right side limits, examine the FORM/GENRE categories. Items that have been tagged with words like "interviews," "autobiography," "memoir," "speeches," "photographs," "correspondence" (and so on) might help you target various kinds of primary sources.

  • Look for a biography of the individual or social reform movement you're interested in. Full-length biographies are chock full of primary source references -- from shopping lists to letters to contemporary reviews and perceptions. Some of these will be in archives and impossible for you to reach given the constraints of the term; others will be republished and can be easily obtained for you  by other means. 

Tools for Managing Research


One simple change can turn Google Scholar into what's effectively a Harvard database -- with links to the full-text of articles that the library can provide. Here's what to do:  Look to the left of the GS screen and click on the "hamburger" (); then click on .  Look for "Library Links."  Then type Harvard University into the search box and save your choice.  As long as you allow cookies, the settings will keep.  

Lean Library: a browser plugin that (nearly always) identifies digital availability of items at Harvard and runs automatically as you search books and articles.  


 Zoteroa free, open source citation management tool will take the process of collecting and organizing citations, incorporating them into your paper, and creating a bibliography or works cited page to the next level. 

It's worth the small investment of time to learn Zotero.  A good guide, produced by Harvard librarians, is available here: