American History and American Studies: Historical Text Collections



  • AM Explorer Icon (Adam Matthew)
    Allows you to search across more than sixty-five unique primary-source collections reproduced from archives and special libraries around the world. In order to limit your search to databases that the publisher has identified as being significantly related to North America, select: Restrict Search by / Region / North America. AM Explorer includes many databases with substantial content related a wide range of topics, peoples, and periods in American history. For example: Colonial America; American Indian Histories and Cultures; Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975; and African American Communities.
  • Gale Primary Sources Icon (Gale)

    Allows you to search across more than thirty databases providing access to primary sources from and/or relating to America, Britain, and countries around the globe. The majority of the documents date from a timespan that begins with the fifteenth and extends through the early 21st century. Databases here that are of high relevance to America include: Sabin Americana: History of the Americas, 1500-1926; Indigenous Peoples of North America; American Historical Periodicals from the American Antiquarian Society; Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers; Archives Unbound; and Public Health Archives: Public Health in Modern America, 1890-1970.

  • ProQuest History Vault Icon
    ProQuest History Vault unlocks the wealth of key archival materials with a single search. Researchers can access digitized letters, papers, photographs, scrapbooks, financial records, diaries, and many more primary source materials. Collections include: Civil Rights and the Black Freedom Struggle; Southern Life, Slavery, and the Civil War; Women's Studies; American Indians and the American West; American Politics and Society; and International Relations and Military Conflicts. Some of the modules likely to be of key interest within these collections are singled out below in the box titled "Selected Noteworthy Databases." For a list of all modules published within this series, please see CLIO record for ProQuest History Vault.

  • Readex AllSearch  Icon (Readex)
    A streamlined platform for efficiently searching across all Readex collections available through Columbia University Libraries. The list of cross-searchable collections includes African American Periodicals, America's Historical Newspapers, America's Historical Imprints, Hispanic American Newspapers; and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

  • Social and Cultural History : Letters and Diaries Online Icon  (Alexander Street)
    “Aims to provide an electronic archive of unprecedented scope. In addition to offering keyword searching across thousands of collections freely available on the Web, the Letters and Diaries Online platform allows users to perform in-depth fielded searches across all of the letter, diary, and oral history collections published commercially by Alexander Street Press.” The Alexander Street collections cross-searchable here are: The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries; Black Thought and Culture; British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries; Manuscript Women's Letters and Diaries from the American Antiquarian Society; North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories; and North American Women's Letters and Diaries.

Selected Noteworthy Databases


Searching across many databases at once, as the master platforms listed in the box above enable you to do, can be useful for many research purposes. On the other hand, each of the databases accessible through the master platforms above also has its own distinctive interface and landing page. The landing page and interface of an individual database will provide you with many orientational cues that you will not be seeing when you search across many databases at once through a single plain master platform.

In the links below I provide access to some standalone databases, but also to some databases that are also accessible through master platforms in the box above. When I have singled out databases below that are also accessible through master platforms, it is because I believe that the database itself is especially important--along with the original interface that was designed specifically for it.

  • African American Communities   (Adam Matthew)

    "Focusing predominantly on Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, New York, and towns and cities in North Carolina, this resource presents multiple aspects of the African American community through pamphlets, newspapers and periodicals, correspondence, official records, reports and in-depth oral histories." 
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases in AM Explorer.

  • Afro-Americana imprints, 1535-1922: from the Library Company of Philadelphia  (Readex)
    "Created from the Library Company of Philadelphia's acclaimed Afro-Americana Collection - an accumulation that began with Benjamin Franklin and steadily increased throughout its entire history - this unique online resource provides researchers with more than 12,000 printed works. These essential books, pamphlets and broadsides, including many lesser-known imprints, hold an unparalleled record of African American history, literature and culture. This collection spans nearly 400 years, from the early 16th to the early 20th century." (from publisher's description)
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases covering similar time periods in Readex AllSearch.
  • American Civil War: Letters and Diaries (Alexander Street)
    A collection of personal accounts written between 1855 and 1875 that deal with some aspect of the Civil War, related events preceding or following it, or the impact of these on American life.  Includes both previously published materials (memoirs, letters, diaries, and diary excerpts) and previously unpublished materials.
     ►May be cross-searched with other text collections in Social and Cultural History : Letters and Diaries Online.
  • American Consumer Culture  (Adam Matthew)
    "This portal combines three complementary sets of primary source material that explore the history of American consumer culture in the twentieth century via three key themes: research into consumer motivation, the advertising process and the products themselves. Market Research presents reports produced by Ernest Dichter that attempt to reveal consumers' innermost desires and motivations; J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America presents how advertising is produced and how it interacts with consumer culture through the archive and workings of one of the world's oldest and largest advertising agencies; Trade Catalogues and the American Home presents domestic life and material culture by detailing the products sold in the domestic sphere"
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases in AM Explorer.
  • American Founding Era Collection (University of Virginia Press, Rotunda)
    Rotunda’s Founding Era Collection is an integrated research environment that provides access to scholarly editions of the correspondence and other papers of a number of key figures from America’s founding era. Included here are papers of: John and John Quincy Adams; Alexander Hamilton; John Jay; Thomas Jefferson; Dolley Madison; James Madison; John Marshall; Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry; and George Washington. Also included is a Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution.
  • American History, 1493-1945 (Adam Matthew)
    Contains books, maps, artwork, and other primary source materials from the Gilder Lehrman Collection. It consists of two modules: Module 1 Settlement, Commerce, Revolution and Reform: 1493-1859; and Module 2 Civil War, Reconstruction and the Modern Era: 1860-1945
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases in AM Explorer.

  • American Indian histories and cultures    (Adam Matthew)
    A wide-ranging digital resource presenting a unique insight into interactions between American Indians and Europeans from their earliest contact, continuing through the turbulence of the American Civil War, the on-going repercussions of government legislation, right up to the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. This resource contains material from the Newberry Library's extensive Edward E. Ayer Collection. Includes manuscripts, artwork and rare printed books, photographs and newspapers.
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases in AM Explorer.
  • American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library (Library of Congress) [Open Access]
    “A gateway to rich primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more than 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections.” Provided by the Library of Congress.
  • The American Presidency Project [Open Access]
    Includes: Papers of the Presidents, party platforms, documents released by the Office of the Press Secretary, and many other resources related to the study of the presidency.
  • The American West: sources from the Everett D. Graff Collection at the Newberry Library, Chicago
    (Adam Matthew)
    "Original manuscripts, maps, ephemeral material, and rare printed sources from the Graff Collection about the American West, including tales of frontier life, Native Americans, vigilantes, and outlaws, and the growth of urban centres and environmental impact of westward expansion and of life in the borderlands."
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases in AM Explorer.
  • America's Historical Imprints (Readex)
    Allows you to search across more than eleven collections of historical American publications. Includes: Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922; American Broadsides and Ephemera; American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922; American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922; Early American Imprints I: Evans, 1639-1800 (and supplements); and Early American Imprints II: Shaw-Shoemaker, 1801-1819 (and supplements). Material represented in this database has been sourced from major collections such as those of the American Antiquarian Society, and the Library Company of Philadelphia.
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases covering similar time periods in Readex AllSearch.
  • The American slavery collection, 1820-1922 : from AAS (Readex)
     Searchable database of the American Antiquarian Society's holdings of slavery and abolition materials that includes more than 3,500 works published over the course of more than 100 years.
  • (ProQuest)
    Allows you to search a wide range of historical records that record specific aspects of the lives of individuals. Useful for general historical research as well as genealogical research. Includes records in the following categories: Birth, Marriage & Death; Census & Voter Lists; Immigration & Travel; Military; Schools, Directories & Church Histories; Tax, Criminal, Land & Wills; and Photos & Maps. This resource is often updated by the addition of new collections of records. Geographic scope is wide ranging. The most extensive series of records included are from the United States,  the United Kingdom, Western Europe, Canada, and Australia.
  • Archives of Sexuality and Gender  Icon  (Gale CENGAGE Learning)
    A significant collection of primary sources for the historical study of sex, sexuality, and gender. Includes: LGBTQ History and Culture since 1940, Parts I and II; Sex and Sexuality, Sixteenth to Twentieth Century; International Perspectives on LGBTQ Activism and Culture; and L'Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France.
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases covering similar time periods in Gale Primary Sources.

  • Arte Público Hispanic Historical Collection. Series 1 (EBSCO)
    Consists of historical articles, political and religious pamphlets and broadsides, and complete texts of historical books of U.S. Hispanic literature, political commentary and culture. "The content is 80% Spanish and 20% English.  Importantly, the collection is indexed and searchable in both Spanish and English."
  • Arte Público Hispanic Historical Collection: Series 2 (EBSCO)
    "Presents manuscript, book, and newspaper content in the areas of Hispanic American civil rights, religion, and women’s rights ranging from the eighteenth through the twentieth century." This database was formerly known under an alternative title: Latino-Hispanic American Experience : Leaders, Writers and Thinkers.
  • Associated Press Collections Online  (Gale Cengage Learning)
    "A publishing program focusing on making varied treasures of the Associated Press Corporate Archives, AP Images, and AP Archive available to libraries worldwide." Explores "the history and back story of the venerable Associated Press—decades' worth of wire copy, correspondence, memos, internal publications, and more..." (from publisher's description)
  • Black Thought and Culture (Alexander Street)
    "Contains 1,303 sources with 1,210 authors, covering the non-fiction published works of leading African Americans. Particular care has been taken to index this material so that it can be searched more thoroughly than ever before. Where possible the complete published non-fiction works are included, as well as interviews, journal articles, speeches, essays, pamplets, letters and other fugitive material."
    ►May be cross-searched with other text collections in Social and Cultural History : Letters and Diaries Online.
  • Border and Migration Studies Online  Icon  (Alexander Street)

    This collection of primary source documents, archives, films, and ephemera relate to significant border areas and events from the 19th to 21st centuries. It offers researchers historical context and resources, from both personal and institutional perspectives, to the growing fields of border(land) studies and migration studies, as well as history, law, politics, diplomacy, area and global studies, anthropology, medicine, the arts, and more.

  • Colonial America (Adam Matthew)
    Colonial America makes available all 1,450 volumes of the [Colonial Office] CO 5 series from The National Archives, UK, covering the period 1606 to 1822. CO 5 consists of the original correspondence between the British government and the governments of the American colonies, making it a uniquely rich resource for all historians of the period.
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases in AM Explorer.
  • Colonial State Papers (ProQuest)
    Colonial State Papers provides access to thousands of papers concerning English activities in the American, Canadian, and West Indian colonies between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Colonial State Papers integrates two important research tools as one service: Collection CO 1 from The National Archives (full name: Privy Council and related bodies: America and West Indies, Colonial Papers); and Calendar of State Papers, Colonial: North America and the West Indies 1574-1739. All of the documents from CO 1 have been reproduced as full-colour, high quality images. Users can limit their searches to records that include scanned documents or can search all documents recorded in the Calendar.
  • Documenting the American South (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) [Open Access]
    "A digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture. Currently DocSouth includes sixteen thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs." Includes: North American Slave Narratives; Library of Southern Literature; Colonial and State Records of North Carolina; and many other collections.
  • Early Encounters in North America: Peoples, Cultures, and the Environment (Alexander Street)
    "Painstakingly assembled from hundreds of sources, Early Encounters in North America: Peoples, Cultures, and the Environment documents the relationships among peoples in North America from 1534 to 1850. The collection focuses on personal accounts and provides unique perspectives from all of the protagonists, including traders, slaves, missionaries, explorers, soldiers, native peoples, and officials, both men and women. The project brings coherence to a wide range of published and unpublished accounts, including narratives, diaries, journals, and letters."
  • Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) (Gale Cengage Learning)
    The aim of ECCO is to provide access to "every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom during the 18th century, along with thousands of important works from the Americas." Based on the English Short Title Catalogue.
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases covering similar time periods in Gale Primary Sources.
  • Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) daily reports (Readex)

    The original mission of FBIS was to monitor, record, transcribe and translate intercepted radio broadcasts from foreign governments, official news services, and clandestine broadcasts from occupied territories. These translations, or transcriptions in the case of English language materials, make up the Daily Reports. These texts, and their subsequent analysis, have benefited the U.S. intelligence community for almost the past 60 years. Translated into English from more than 50 languages - from Amharic to Urdu - these comprehensive media reports from around the globe include news, interviews, speeches, editorial commentary and other materials.
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases covering similar time periods in Readex AllSearch.

  • Frontier life : borderlands, settlement & colonial encounters  Icon   (Adam Matthew Digital)"This digital collection of primary source documents helps us to understand existence on the edges of the anglophone world from 1650-1920. Discover the various European and colonial frontier regions of North America, Africa and Australasia through documents that reveal the lives of settlers and indigenous peoples in these areas." 
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases in AM Explorer.
  • Gateway to North America : People, Places, and Organizations of 19th-Century New York (EBSCO)
    "Features over 1500 residential and business directories, organization records, urban guidebooks, and other sources rich in names and places that present a history of the people of New York City from the late eighteenth through the early twentieth century."
  • The Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs (ProQuest)
    "In the late 1800's, Dutch physician and feminist Aletta Jacobs and her husband C.V. Gerritsen began collecting books, pamphlets and periodicals reflecting the revolution of a feminist consciousness and the movement for women's rights. By the time their successors finished their work in 1945, the Gerritsen Collection was the greatest single source for the study of women's history in the world, with materials spanning four centuries and 15 languages." This database is based on that collection.
  • Independent Voices : An Open Access Collection of an Alternative Press (Reveal Digital)
    "Independent Voices chronicles the transformative decades of the 60s, 70s and 80s through the lens of an independent alternative press. Consolidated for the first time, Independent Voices provides over 1,000 titles from the special collections of dozens of libraries. Independent Voices provides easy access to the powerful voices of feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Latinos, gays, lesbians and more."
  • Indigenous peoples--North America    (Gale Cengage Learning)
    "The archive includes extensive monograph, manuscript, newspaper, periodical and photograph collections.. . . [It] provides users with a robust, diverse, informative source that will enhance research and increase understanding of the historical experiences, cultural traditions and innovations, and political status of Indigenous Peoples in the United States and Canada." (from publisher's description) 
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases covering similar time periods in Gale primary sources.
  • LGBT thought and culture    Icon    Alexander Street Press
    "LGBT Thought and Culture is an online resource hosting books, periodicals, and archival materials documenting LGBT political, social and cultural movements throughout the twentieth century and into the present day. The collection illuminates the lives of lesbians, gays, transgender, and bisexual individuals and the community with content including selections from The National Archives in Kew, materials collected by activist and publisher Tracy Baim from the mid-1980s through the mid-2000s, the Magnus Hirschfeld and Harry Benjamin collections from the Kinsey Institute, periodicals such as En la Vida and BLACKlines, select rare works from notable LGBT publishers including Alyson Books and Cleis Press, as well as mainstream trade and university publishers."
  • Literature Online (ProQuest)
    A fully searchable collection of more than 355,000 works of English-language poetry, drama and prose from various nations and regions and spanning many centuries. Also includes key resources for reference and literary criticism. Updated at least nine times a year.
  • Making of America (University of  Michigan and Cornell University) [Open Access]
    A collaborative effort between the University of  Michigan and Cornell University, Making of America (MOA) draws on the depth of primary materials at those universities' libraries. MOA is a thematically-related digital library documenting American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction, focusing on items printed from 1850 to 1877.
  • The Making of the Modern World (Gale Cengage Learning)
    Provides digital facsimile images of unique primary sources that track the development of the modern, western world through the lens of trade and wealth. Full-text searching across millions of pages of works from the period 1450-1945. Facilitates research in the areas of history, political science, social conditions, technology and industry, economics, area studies and more.
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases covering similar time periods in Gale Primary Sources.
  • Migration to new worlds  Icon  (Adam Matthew Digital)
    "Migration to New Worlds explores the movement of peoples from Great Britain, Ireland, mainland Europe and Asia to the New World and Australasia." Includes "collections from 26 archives, libraries and museums, Migration to New Worlds brings together the movement and memories of millions across two centuries of mass migration."
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases in AM Explorer.
  • NAACP papers  ProQuest
    The Papers of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) are "the most widely used collection in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress." Now "nearly two million pages of internal memos, legal briefings and direct action summaries" can be easily searched and accessed in the NAACP Papers database. "With a timeline that runs from 1909 to 1972, users can examine the realities of segregation in the early 20th century to the triumphs of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and beyond." [From publisher's site.] 
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases in ProQuest History Vault.

  • The New York Academy of Sciences (John Wiley and Sons)
    This collection of digitized primary sources provides access to two hundred years of scientific research and progress in the fields of natural history, natural sciences, medical research, climate science, civil and human rights, education in the sciences, and more.

  • Nineteenth Century Collections Online (Gale Cengage Learning)
    "A multi-year global digitization and publishing program focusing on primary source collections of the long nineteenth century. . . . The content is sourced from the world's preeminent libraries and archives. It consists of monographs, newspapers, pamphlets, manuscripts, ephemera, maps, photographs, statistics, and other kinds of documents in both Western and non-Western languages." Now complete in twelve collections. Collections include: Asia and the WestBritish Politics and SocietyBritish Theatre, Music, and LiteratureEurope and AfricaChildren's Literature and Childhood; Science, Technology, and Medicine: 1780-1925 (Parts I & II); Women: Transnational Networks and many more.
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases covering similar time periods in Gale Primary Sources.
  • Past Masters (InteLex)
    Provides access to full-text scholarly editions in the following areas: Classical, Medieval, American, British, and Continental Philosophy; English Letters; Women Writers; Religious Studies; Social Science; and History of Science.
  • Popular Medicine in America, 1800-1900 (Adam Matthew)
    "This unique collection showcases the development of 'popular' medicine in America during the nineteenth century, through an extensive range of material that was aimed at the general public rather than medical professionals. Explore an array of printed sources, including rare books, pamphlets, trade cards, and visually-rich advertising ephemera."
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases in AM Explorer.
  • Prize papers online. 1, American Revolutionary War and Fourth Anglo-Dutch War.
    Prize papers online. 2, Seven Years' War and War of the Austrian Succession.
    Prize papers online. 3, First, second and third Anglo-Dutch War and War of the Spanish Succession.   (Brill)
    "The Prize Papers archive, part of the archives of the High Court of Admiralty kept in The National Archives (TNA) Kew, is commonly regarded as one of the most valuable archives in the field of maritime history. In the course of its many naval engagements the British Royal Navy seized numerous enemy ships. Documents pertaining to tens of thousands of these seized ships (“prizes”), Dutch and French, Spanish and Portuguese, but also Danish, Swedish, German, Italian and American have been preserved.... The English authorities enquired about the origin, the route and planned destination, tonnage, freight and crew members, about citizenship, national allegiance, and the personal migration history of the interrogated crew members. The answers were interpreted into English, and written down by professional secretaries.... Brill has digitized the interrogations, and made them available online to researchers all over the world. Prize Papers Online provide images of each interrogation , while the answers to the fourteen most researched questions have been transcribed and stored in a searchable database." 
  • ProQuest Historical Annual Reports
    Annual reports covering more than 800 U.S. companies. Reports date from the 1800s to current; oldest report dating back to 1844. Strong industry coverage of the most influential companies in their industry.
  • ProQuest history vault. Immigration: records of the INS, 1880-1930  Icon
    Covers the investigations made by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) during the massive immigration wave of 1880-1930. The files cover Asian immigration, especially Japanese and Chinese migration, to California, Hawaii, and other states; Mexican immigration to the U.S. from 1906-1930, and European immigration. There are also extensive files on the INS's regulation of prostitution and white slavery and on suppression of radical aliens.
  • Race Relations in America  Icon  (Adam Matthew Digital)
    "Sourced from the records of the Race Relations Department of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, housed at the Amistad Research Center in New Orleans, this resource provides access to a wealth of documents highlighting different responses to the challenges of overcoming prejudice, segregation and racial tensions. These range from survey material, including interviews and statistics, to educational pamphlets, administrative correspondence, and photographs and speeches from the Annual Race Relations Institutes." Includes documents ranging in date from 1928 to 1976, with the bulk dating from 1943 to 1970. [From publisher's site.] 
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases in AM Explorer.

  • Sabin Americana, 1500-1926 (Gale Cengage Learning)
    "Based on Joseph Sabin's landmark bibliography, this collection contains works about the Americas published throughout the world from 1500 to the early 1900's. Included are books, pamphlets, serials and other documents that provide original accounts of exploration, trade, colonialism, slavery and abolition, the western movement, Native Americans, military actions and much more. With over 6 million pages from 29,000 works, this collection is a cornerstone in the study of the western hemisphere."
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases covering similar time periods in Gale primary sources.
  • Slavery & Anti-Slavery : A Transnational Archive (Gale Cengage Learning)
    "Includes collections on the transatlantic slave trade, the global movement for the abolition of slavery, the legal, personal, and economic aspects of the slavery system, and the dynamics of emancipation in the U.S. as well as in Latin America, the Caribbean, and other regions." Collections published through partnerships with leading relevant institutions, such as the Amistad Research Center, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the British Library, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases covering similar time periods in Gale Primary Sources.

Use CLIO to Find More


A. Search for Databases that are Collections of Texts Related to American History

Go to CLIO Catalog / Databases:

Enter a search for:

"united states" OR america*  in Subject

Then, in the left margin of CLIO search screen, open Resource Type, and select:

Text Collections

That will lead you to this result:"united+states"+OR+america%2A&search_field=subject

You could also repeat the process, searching for:

canad* OR america* in Subject

B. Search More Generally for Compilations of Primary Sources

Add this tag word to your search: sources

The subject headings used in library catalogs make use of a standard tag word
to indicate compilations of primary sources in various formats (including printed compilations, ebooks, and online databases).

Here are some examples of complete subject headings using the "sources" tag word.

It is not necessary to know or guess at entire subject headings. Just enter a few key words PLUS the word "sources" as in the following search:
marriage united states sources    in  All Fields
This search leads to the following result set: