Encyclopedias are great for:
Animals in the ancient world from A to Z. Kitchell, Kenneth F., Jr., Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge, 2014.
Olin Library Reference QL355 .K58 2014
Encyclopedia of human-animal relationships: a global exploration of our connections with animals. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2007. Veterinary Library (Schurman Hall) QL85 .E53 2007
Encyclopedia of animal rights and animal welfare. Santa Barbara, Calif. : Greenwood Press, c2010. English. 2nd ed. Mann Library HV4708 .E53x 2010
Extinct animals : an encyclopedia of species that have disappeared during human history. Piper, Ross.Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press/ Mann Library QL83 .P57 2009
The Colonies & Europe
The Cambridge History of America A multi-volume collection on all aspects of American history. Outstanding scholarship. Rich footnotes and bibliography.
Handbooks are overviews, almost encyclopedias, which cover a variety of topics and provide excellent essays with bibliography to get you started on your research.