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Background Information

Reference resources are a great place to begin your research.  They can help you define terms as well as to find basic information about a topic, a chronicle of its history, theories, key people and sometimes a bibliography of additional sources. 

There are many different types of reference sources, which include dictionaries, encyclopedias, thesauri, bibliographies, handbooks, maps, style manuals to name a few.

Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

Oxford Reference Online - History
Access to a collection of over 100 dictionary, language reference, and subject reference works. Featured titles include:

  • Dictionary of Contemporary World History 
  • Dictionary of World History
  • Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment 
  • Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance
  • Oxford Companion to Military History 

The Routledge Companion to Historical Studies
An introduction to the key issues, historians and philosophers and their ideas and theories.

Dictionary of Historic Documents
REF D9 .D525 2003
Guide to significant documents of the world from ancient times to the present. 

Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century World History
D356 .D53 1994t
Includes all aspects of political, diplomatic, military, social and economic history, and provides overviews of the cultural and artistic developments of the period.
Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing
REF D14 .E53 1999
Guide to influential historians and historical debates.
Timelines (Oxford University Press)


Cassell's Chronology of World History 
D11 .W635 2005 (Education Reference)
Chronology of World History
REF D11 .M39 1999
Time period covered is from prehistory to 1998. Sections are organized by time period and then by the topics of Politics, Science, Arts/Ideas and Society.
Timetables of History
D11 .G78 1982
Provides a chronology of seven thousand years of significant moments in history, religion, science, and the arts.
Timelines of War
D25.A2 B76 1994
Chronology of war, revolutions, battles, leaders and weapons from prehistory to 1993.
Timelines (Oxford University Press)

Oxford Bibliographies offers peer-reviewed annotated bibliographies which will help you to narrow the vast number of citations to the best scholarship on a given topic.

Bibliographies are browseable by subject area and keyword searchable.

For example, there are research guides on African Studies, Atlantic history, Islamic StudiesMedieval Studies, to name a few. 

Atlases & Maps

Oxford Atlas of World History
G1030 .P57 1999b m (SL Maps & Air Photos)

Portal to a variety of cartographical web sites (U. of Texas at Austin).
Rand McNally Historical Atlas of the World
G1030 .H54 1981 maps (SL Maps & Air Photos)
Focus is on European history.
Times Complete History of the World
G1030 .T54 2007 (SL folio)
For more atlases, search Omni by the subject heading:
Historical geography Maps