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HIST 1460: Papers of Empire: Writing and the Colonization of America from Columbus to Lewis and Clark (Fall 2017): Scholarly Encyclopedias

A guide to library research


Encyclopedias are great for:

  • choosing a topic
  • quick self-education
  • perspective on a topic
  • variant spellings, vocabulary, terminology
  • bibliography

Cambridge Histories Online

Cambridge Histories Online

Excellent resource. Full text. Chapters as pdfs. Extremely high quality essays with rich footnotes and bibliography.


Colonial history

The Colonies

Encyclopedia of the North American colonies.(Olin Library Reference + E45 .E56 and Uris Library Reference E45 .E53x 1993). 3 volumes.

Colonial wars of North America, 1512-1763: an encyclopedia. (Olin Library Oversize E46.5 .C65x 1996+)

The Encyclopedia of colonial and revolutionary America. (Olin Library E188 .E56+ and Uris Library Reference). Some major articles and about 1500 short entries alphabetically arranged. Covers Norse exploration to the end of the Revolution, emphasis is on the English-speaking colonies. Includes suggestions for further reading.

Encyclopedia of American cultural & intellectual history. (Olin Library Reference E169.1 .E624x 2001)

Encyclopedia of American Social History. (Olin Reference HN 57 .E56 1992)

Encyclopedia of European Social History: From 1350 To 2000 (in print Olin Reference HN 373 .E63 2001)



American National Biography (ANB)  Influential people of the United States.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB). Influential people of the British Isles and the Colonies; also Americans of the Colonial Period.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Prominent Canadians.

Native Americans

Native Americans 

Handbook of the American frontier : four centuries of Indian-White relationships.(Olin Library Reference E76.2 .H43) Brief articles in dictionary arrangement include explorers, traders, settlements, and other topics of interest. Includes bibliographical references and index.

Native Americans : an encyclopedia of history, culture, and peoples. Barry M. Pritzker. Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, c1998. (Olin Library Reference E77 .P89x 1998) 2 volumes.

Handbook of North American Indians. (Olin Library Reference + E76.2 .H23) Includes bibliographical references and indexes. Contents: v. 1. Introduction -- v. 2. Indians in contemporary society -- v. 3. Environment, origins and population -- v. 4. History of Indian-white relations -- v. 5. Arctic -- v. 6. Subarctic -- v. 7. Northwest Coast -- v. 8. California -- v. 9 & 10. Southwest -- v. 11. Great Basin -- v. 12. Plateau -- v. 13. Plains (2 v.) -- v. 14. Southeast -- v. 15. Northeast -- v. 16. Technology and visual arts -- v. 17. Languages -- v. 18 & 19. Biographical dictionary -- v. 20. Index.

Handbook of American Indians north of Mexico
.  (Library Annex and Olin Reference E77 .H68 1960). This two volume work is old, but a classic and still useful.

Dictionary of Indian tribes of the Americas.  (Olin Library Reference+ E54.5 .D56 1993). Three volumes.

Historical dictionary of North American archaeology.  (Olin Library Reference E77.9 H67).

An anthropological bibliography of the eastern seaboard (Olin Library Oversize Z5114 .E13+)

The mythology of the Americas: an illustrated encyclopedia of gods, spirits, and sacred places of North America, Mesoamerica and South America. (Olin Library Oversize E59.R38 J66x 2001 ++)

Gale encyclopedia of Native American tribes.  (Olin Library Reference + E77 .N3518x 1998) Four volumes.

The Encyclopedia of Native American Legal Tradition (Law Reference   KF8204 .E53x 1998) Integrating American Indian law and Native American political and legal traditions, this encyclopedia includes detailed descriptions of nearly two dozen Native American Nations' legal and political systems such as the Iroquois, Cherokee, Choctaw, Navajo, Cheyenne, Creek, Chickasaw, Comanche, Sioux, Pueblo, Mandan, Wyandot, Powhatan, Mikmaq, and Yakima. Although not an Indian law casebook, this work does contain outlines of many major Indian law cases, congressional acts, and treaties.

Guide to American Indian Documents in the Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1899: A Project of the Institute for the Development of Indian Law (Olin Reference   Z1209 .J69 ) This volume concerns itself only with documents and reports which have been published in the Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1899. The documents deal primarily with Indian relations with the U.S. Government. Most deal with "Indian Affairs" rather than with descriptions of Indians or Indian life.

Native Americans and the Law: A Dictionary (Olin Reference   KF8203.6 .S66x 2000)

Dictionary of Native American Mythology  A careful selection of the distinctive stories, characters, themes, symbols, and motifs that interweave the traditions of over 100 different Native American cultures.

Encyclopedia of Native American Religions: An Introduction (Mann Reference   E98.R3 H66 1992; Olin Reference   E98.R3 H66) 1,200 cross-referenced entries. A fascinating guide to the spiritual traditions of Native Americans in the United States and Canada, including coverage of beliefs about the afterlife, symbolism, creation myths, and vision quests; important ceremonies and dances; prominent American Indian religious figures; and events, legislation, and tribal court cases that have shaped the development of Native American religions.

Encyclopedia of Native American Shamanism: Sacred Ceremonies of North America (Olin Stacks   E98.M4 L98x 1998 +) Focuses on "medicine" or sacred ceremonies conducted through shamans in which the power of the Creator is made manifest for all to behold. Entries include the names and results of medicine ceremonies, renowned shamans famous for their powers, techniques used by shamans to acquire and control the power of sacred ceremonies, technical terms used by anthropologists, biographies of anthropologists who research these ceremonies, cross-cultural symbolic motifs, plants and sacred paraphernalia associated with ceremonies, and recurring themes that structure these ceremonies.


Flicker photo by teachernz

Superior to Wikipedia on most topics & disciplines:


Gale virtual reference library 

Sage Reference Online

Oxford Reference Online