Historiography is the study of historical writing, not the study of historical events, and it deals with the theoretical approaches and methods of a selected set of historians. Historiographies describe and assess defined facets of the body of historical scholarship and are, to a certain extent, the historian's version of a literature review. However, the historiographical essay is more than just a compilation of the existing scholarly literature; it presents a new argument supported by the skillful selection and interpretation of secondary works. 


Annotated bibliographies are helpful introductions to the literature of a field. They are, however, a dying breed and only as current as their publication date. Online databases and indexes are a more reliable approach to identifying recent scholarship. Nevertheless, printed editions of guides to the literature of a field remain valuable for historiographical projects. Below are two examples. Additional bibliographies may be identified via the Library's catalog and WorldCat.

Oxford Bibliographies (Oxford University Press)
Presents peer-reviewed, annotated bibliographies and expert commentary on current scholarship in selected disciplines. Villanova University has access to the following bibliographies: African American Studies, American Literature, Art History, Atlantic History, Biblical Studies, British and Irish Literature, Buddhism, Cinema and Media Studies, Classics, Communication, Criminology, Environmental Science, Geography, Hinduism, International Relations, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, Latin American Studies, Management, Medieval Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Renaissance and Reformation, and Victorian Literature.

American Historical Association's Guide to Historical Literature
The Guide "offers a selective inventory of the best historical literature in all fields, topics, and methods, and was carefully crafted by large teams of bibliographers and historians." Note that the latest edition was published in 1995.

American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature
The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations published an annotated bibliographic guide. Thirty-two chapters are organized by period, including a chapter on the Cold War and one on the Korean War. Each chapter includes sections on published primary documents, historiography, biographies, and memoirs. Available in print only.


The Library has a large selection of handbooks and companions that include literature surveys in any given field. Explore the selection listed below or contact your librarian for additional suggestions.

  A Companion to the Philosophy of History and Historiography.
  A Companion to Western Historical Thought.
  Blackwell Companions to History
  Cambridge Companions Online (Cambridge Univesity Press
  Cambridge Histories Online (Cambridge University Press)
  Dictionary of Concepts in History.
  Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing.
  Oxford Handbooks Online (Oxford University Press)
  Routledge Companions to History
  Writing the Annotated Bibliography: A Guide for Students and Researchers


Book reviews are another way to gauge the impact of a work. Don't expect to find reviews of monographs that were just published. The first reviews by historians generally appear after at least half a year has passed. Pay attention to the number of reviews available for a monograph and the journals that published them. This information will tell you a lot about the impact and reception of a work.

   Book Review Digest Plus (EBSCO)
   Book Review Digest Retrospective, 1903-1982 (EBSCO) 
   Humanities & Social Sciences Index Retrospective: 1907-1984 (EBSCO)
   Humanities Full Text (EBSCO)
   H-Net Reviews


The Library's databases index book reviews. Note that none of these databases will index all available book reviews. Results are limited to the journals indexed in a database. Below is a small selection of recommended databases.

   America: History and Life (EBSCO)
   Bloomsbury History: Theory & Method
   Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index
   Historical Abstracts (EBSCO)
   International Medieval Bibliography (Brepols)
   Articles & More Search


Academic journals typically have a section dedicated to the review of new monographs in the field. The Journal of the Civil War Era, would be a good starting point to survey new monographs, if you are planning to work on a Civil War topic. The American Historical Review published by the American Historical Association publishes approximately 1,000 book reviews per year. History Compass publishes historiographical essays "across the entire discipline, with no restrictions in terms of geography, time period or historical methodology."

American Historical Review
Alabama Review
CROMOHS: Cyber Review of Modern Historiography
History Compass
Histos: The Electronic Journal of Ancient Historiography at the University of Durham
International Journal of Military History and Historiography
Journal of Art Historiography
Journal of Modern Russian History and Historiography
Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science


primary sources

Primary sources come in various formats, but they all have one thing in common: they are original, unfiltered sources that describe people, places, and events. While museums, archives, and libraries preserve primary sources in their original form, reproductions may be widely available and accessible in various formats, including print books, digital archives, websites, and microfilm.


Distinctive Collections materials are available by appointment.  You may also request that an item be scanned. We can do partial scans and may be able to do full scans depending on copyright and staff availability. Please submit requests through this form. We also have numerous digital items already available in the Digital Library. For assistance in researching Distinctive Collections materials, please email us.