Guide to European and UK Libraries, Archives and Research Centers: Identifying Relevant Sources

Identifying Relevant Sources

1. First, last, and always, be aware that there are librarians available to help you.

The libraries have subject specialists available for a wide range of geographical areas. Please feel free to contact any one of them for advice or to schedule an appointment to discuss your research:

Directory of Library Subject Specialist Liaisons

The Subject Specialist Librarians listed below also serve as general liaisons to the Global Innovation Fund program. Please feel free to contact them for guidance if you are not certain which subject specialist[s] to contact. They will also be glad to meet with you concerning research in their own areas of subject specialty.

John L. Tofanelli jt628@columbia.edu
or
Meredith Levin  mjl2209@columbia.edu

You may also wish to make use of our Ask a Librarian services.

2. Start out by looking at good secondary sources on your topic. What archival sources are these scholars making use of?

A. To find books

i. Search CLIO catalog

ii. Search WorldCat

B. To find articles:

i. if your topic focus is on countries other than the United States or Canada, begin with
Historical abstracts with full text
Historical Abstracts covers the history of the world (exclusive of the US and Canada) from 1450 to present.

ii. If your topic is primarily on the United States or Canada, either by themselves or in relationship to other countries, begin with:
America, history and life with full text

iii. To search the two databases above simultaneously:

Open one of the above databases. Then select “Choose Databases” link from above the top search box.

From the menu of databases that pops up, check the one that you have not yet opened, then click “OK.”

iv. Depending on the geographical and/or topic focus of your research, there are other databases you might need to consult to identify relevant journal articles. Please ask a librarian for advice.

C. To find dissertations

Use:

ProQuest dissertations & theses

and

Dissertations & theses. UK & Ireland

and

DART European E-Theses Portal

3. Consult the relevant library Research Guide[s]

The guide in which you are now situated was specifically designed to assist students embarking on research in British and / or European Archives.

Many research guide related to the study of specific countries or regions may be found on the

Research Guides by Subject Areas page.

4. Familiarize yourself with national archival catalogues for countries in which you plan to do archival research and also with the web sites for relevant local archival collections

Linked below are some examples of national archival catalogues:

The National Archives (United Kingdom)

Archives Nationales (France)

If you identify a specific local archive relevant to your research, go to the Website for that local archive and find out what you can about their collections and the conditions for visiting and using those collections. For example:

Middle East Centre. St Antony’s College. University of Oxford.

5. Explore online sources that provide digital facsimiles of archival collections

This can provide you with a helpful sense of what some archival document collections are like. You may even find documents that have bearing on your topic. Examples of databases sourced from archival collections:

Archives direct : sources from The National Archives, UK

Archives unbound

State papers online: early modern government in Britain and Europe

6. Read and consider carefully the handout listed below. The pointers it provides are relevant for all stages of archival research—from getting started onwards.

“Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research” by Laura Schmidt
Society of American Archivists, 2011