United States History in the Institute of Historical Research Library

This is a significant collection of printed primary sources covering the United States from Independence. Its highlights include bibliography, administrative records, Presidential papers, and extensive editions of letters, transatlantic correspondence, journals and diaries written by individuals across different time periods. In addition, the collection includes resources on individual states and a considerable number of travel writing and exploration diaries. Another highlight of the collection is personal narratives written during wartime, including Civil War diaries experienced from the home-front.  

The majority of the collection is on open access in the North American room. Items marked onsite or offsite store can be requested. Pre-revolution history is in the Colonial sequence (classmark CLAA). The post-independence collections are split between classmarks:

  • Bibliography (classmark UB) offsite store
  • US Federal Government records (classmark UF) (pre-1800 mostly open access, post-1800 onsite store)
  • State History (classmark US) most material on 13 original colonies/states and Texas and Illinois are on open access, remainder in onsite store.

> Further information on locations (pdf)


British North America, 1607-1763

State Historical Society Publications (Colonial/Revolutionary Periods)

The published archival series of documents held in state and regional historical societies make up the core of the IHR’s rich holdings in early American history. Over 810 volumes of these documentary compilations line the shelves of the North American Collections holdings. This tally does not include the dozens of volumes of archival material for Post-Revolutionary America. 

New England

Connecticut: The Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society is the largest series of records pertaining to the history of colonial and revolutionary Connecticut in the IHR. The library holds 23 volumes of the series containing records as diverse as:

Other collections include volumes of legislative and court records:

Maine: Colonial resources for the region that would become to the state of Maine at the IHR include 18 volumes of York Deeds detailing property ownership in Maine during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Maine Historical Society published material from the colonial and revolutionary periods in the Documentary History of the State of Maine, 24 vols. (1869-1916). The series encompasses 19 volumes of The Baxter Manuscripts. The Baxter volumes contain an array of different types of sources including, letter correspondence, 17th century petitions to colonial officials from local landowners, and legal depositions. Other resources include:

Massachusetts: The archival records for the colony of Massachusetts are the largest and most diverse of the historical society publications in the IHR collection. These volumes include an array of sources ranging from government material and congregational church records, to 17th century Election Day sermons and sources material relating to the Salem Witch Trials. 

The Massachusetts Historical Society regularly publishes volumes of archival documents. Volumes are often devoted to individual collections in their holdings including The Papers of Robert Treat Paine, 3 vols. (Boston, 1992-2005) and The Belcher Papers, 2 vols. (Boston, 1893-94). Robert Treat Paine (1731-1814) was a leading patriot during the revolution and the first attorney general of the state of Massachusetts. Jonathan Belcher (1681-1757) served as the governor of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New Jersey. He support was instrumental in the founding of the Presbyterian seminary in New Jersey (later Princeton New Jersey).  Other volumes published by the MHS include:

Though not affiliated with a particular archive, the Colonial Society of Massachusetts has over the course of a century, published 80 volumes of sources relevant the history of colonial New England. Individual volume focus on one collection, person or theme including:

Other series and published collections of primary resources relating to the history of colonial Massachusetts - including collections of court papers, town corporation records, personal papers and memoirs of those involved in the Salem Witch trials, etc. – are found alongside the state archival series in the colonial section of the North American Room. Examples include:

Puritan papers: memoirs and letters written by 17th-century New England puritans:

New Hampshire: The principal collection of primary sources relating to the early history of New Hampshire is the Provincial and state papers of New Hampshire series. The IHR holds 33 volumes in this series, covering topics such as revolutionary soldier muster rolls, official papers regarding boundary disputes with neighbouring colonies, early town development and various state papers. Other collections include:

Vermont: Material on the territory that would become Vermont can be found in the various New Hampshire Archives series outlined above. The main collection of resources regarding the border dispute with New Hampshire is:

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The Mid-Atlantic Colonies

Pennsylvania: The first nine series of the Pennsylvania Archives collection is the core of the Library’s Pennsylvania materials. These series together constitute over 100 volumes of published sources housed in the various state archives of Pennsylvania and published on order of the State Assembly from the mid-nineteenth century. Material contained within the collections includes land deeds, colonial correspondence, items relating to Native American diplomacy, assembly minutes, etc. The series are an invaluable resource to students of the Mid-Atlantic region in the colonial and revolutionary periods. The first series is listed as single catalogue entry on the IHR library online catalogue. Most other volumes are listed individually and can be found by typing ‘Pennsylvania Archives’ in a title search on the Library website.

Other Pennsylvania materials in the library include:

  • The Susquehannah Company papers / [Vols. 1-4] Edited by Julian P. Boyd: [vols.5-11] edited by Robert J. Taylor (Ithaca, N.Y : Published [by] Cornell University Press for Wyoming Historical & Geological Society, Wilkes-Barre, Pa, [1962-1971]). The colonies of Connecticut and Pennsylvania both laid claim to the Wyoming Valley from the late 17th century. These rival claims led to a series of open conflicts between different groups of white settlers in the 1770s. The Susquehannah Company Papers is a collection of documents relating to the Connecticut claim.
  • The papers of William Penn / editors, Mary Maples Dunn, Richard S. Dunn ; associate editors, Richard A. Ryerson, Scott M. Wilds ; assistant editor, Jean R. Soderlund 5 vols. ([Philadelphia, Pa.], 1981-1987). Personal and official correspondence of William Penn (1644-1718), the founder and first proprietor of the colony of Pennsylvania.

Delaware: The library holds numerous collections of government papers relating to the colonial history of Delaware from 1631, when the counties at the mouth of the Delaware River were established under Swedish and Dutch control,  to the coming of the revolution. These resources include:

New York: The colonial New York collections in the IHR are organized around the Historical Collections of New York series, constituting nearly 100 volumes. This series contains resources dealing with the government of the colony of New York following the conquest of New Amsterdam, the development of the colonial economy, religion, among other topics. A unified catalogue entry exists for the first 15 volumes of the series (found below). Subsequent volumes are catalogued individually and can be found by typing ‘New York Historical Collections’ in a title search on the IHR Library online catalogue.

New Netherland, 1609-1674: The North American Collections Room holds numerous resources on the topic of Dutch imperialism/colonialism in North America prior to the English conquest of New Netherland in 1674. These include:

New Jersey: Most of the IHR’s resources for early New Jersey relate to the governance of the colony. These resources include:

  • New Jersey archives: Third series (Trenton, NJ). Like other US state archival series listed in te IHR Library catalogue, individual volumes can be found by conducting a title or keyword search for individual items. In this instance the terms ‘New Jersey Archives’ and ‘Colonial New Jersey’ will bring up a list of relevant resources. Often, individual volumes within the series are listed under the title assigned to them in according to the material they contain (Minutes of the Governor's Privy Council, 1777-1789, for example, is the first volume in the third series).

MarylandThe main bulk of the IHR’s sources of early Maryland are to be found in the publication Archives of Maryland. The library hold the first 70 volumes and the material, as for other state archival series, mostly relate to the governance of the colony:

Proceedings of the Council of Maryland, 1636-1770 and Proceedings and acts of the General Assembly of Maryland from 1637-1774 constitute the main part of Archives of Maryland. Other court proceedings include Proceedings of the Provincial Court of MarylandSources of a more personal nature giving insight into different aspects of life in early Maryland include Dear Papa, Dear Charley : the peregrinations of a revolutionary aristocrat..a collection of correspondence in 3 volumes between father and son in the years 1748-1782. Resources on Maryland can also be found in other sections of the library,  for example George Luis Beer’s work in the general Colonial collection on The origins of the British colonial system, 1578-1660  has a chapter on Maryland.  

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The South

Georgia: The principal collection of primary source material on colonial Georgia in the library is The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia (Atlanta, 1904-1989). The series consists of 25 volumes and contains the minutes of the colonial council and the Assembly, the correspondence of the colonial trustees (including General Oglethorpe) and governors, and the Journal of the Earl of Egmont (first president of the Board of Trustees) from 1738-1744.

North Carolina: The largest collection of material relating to colonial, revolutionary, and early national North Carolina is the Colonial Records of North Carolina series. It includes 26 volumes of resources originally published by the state archives in the 1880s and 90s. It includes a wealth of material ranging from legislative records and court and church documents to ego sources including personal letters.

  • The colonial records of North Carolina / published under the supervision of the Trustees of the public libraries, by order of the General assembly; collected and edited by William L. Saunders, Secretary of State (Raleigh, 1886-90).

The North Carolina Historical Commission published several records series containing sources relevant to the study of colonial and revolutionary North Carolina. These include the records of the Moravian Church, the first 6 vols. of which include records from the 18th century. The Commission also published the historical record of North Carolina series, which includes various sources (court records, deeds and legislative record, etc.). 

The Regulator Movement (1766-1771) pitted backcountry debtors and recent immigrants against coastal creditors and elites over issues of representation and property ownership. The Regulator rebellion, and its brutal suppression, occurred during the Imperial Crisis between Great Britain and the colonies. It is sometimes studied within the context of the coming of the American Revolution. The IHR holds the published personal papers of the Governor during the troubles, William Tryon (1729-1788).

Other volumes of sources for colonial North Carolina include:

South Carolina: The Historical Commission of South Carolina published a series of colonial documents held in state archives. The series focuses on government publications, notably the Journal of the Commons House of Assembly. Also includes papers relating to Indian negotiations throughout the period.

Other volumes include sources not included in the Colonial Records series.

Virginia: The Virginia State Library edited several series of colonial government records for publication, including the minutes and papers of the executive and legislative councils. The IHR library holds several versions of these records:

Virginia before the arrival of the English:

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American Historical Association American Legal Records

The American Historical Association’s American Legal Records series contains records relating to the jurisprudence and the practical application of the law in the British North American Colonies. Each volume of the series is devoted to a different state/colony and contains a range of material relating to different courts (vice admiralty, mayoral, criminal, etc.) as well as diaries of prominent figures (Connecticut congressman and member of the colony’s Supreme Court, William Samuel Johnson, 1727-1819).

Volumes held in the IHR:

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The American Revolution, 1763-1783

The patriot position

American Pamphlets of the Revolution: In 1965 prominent historian of the American Revolution, Bernard Bailyn, edited a collection of pamphlets published in the American Colonies during the first stages of the Imperial Crisis (1764-1776). Many of these pamphlets deal with issues of American sovereignty during the Stamp Act Crisis (1764-1765). Bailyn’s work on the volume led him to write an influential work on political ideology in the years leading to the revolution, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge, Mass., 1967).

See also:

The Revolutionary leadership: Correspondence of figures including Samuel Adams (1722-1803), prominent patriot agitator in Massachusetts in the 1760s and 1770s as well as a founder of the Patriot activist group, the Sons of Liberty; Robert Morris (1734-1806) signer of the Declaration of Independence and financier of the American Revolution; politician, Patrick Henry (1736-1799), famous for his declaration of ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ on the floor of the Virginian House of Burgesses; and Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), Philadelphia physician and patriot. See also the papers of leading patriots who would later rise to prominence in the early republic, including those of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington.

Washington and the Continental Army: The IHR holds an impressive array of resources, including orderly books and correspondence, relating to the leadership of the Continental Army. Many of these resources relate to the central command of George Washington.  Other figures represented in our collections include, Nathanael Greene (1742-1786), the ‘Swamp Fox’ who led the army during the campaign in the Carolinas and Benedict Arnold (1740-1801). Arnold’s capture of Fort Ticonderoga (1775) and his performance during the Battle of Saratoga (1777) made him a hero of the revolution. Believing that his accomplishments were overlooked by his superiors, Arnold became disaffected with his position and the direction of the revolution following the French alliance. He therefore decided to defect to the British and surrender to the American garrison at West Point to British forces. The plot was discovered and Arnold escaped to lead British forces in the south. 

The creation of the American Navy: The core collection of materials relating to the US Navy in the American Revolution is the eleven volume series, The Naval documents of the American Revolution. It contains correspondence, journals and other information relative to the various theatres of operation during the War of American Independence. Including American activities in European waters. Many of the resources dealing with the subject can be found in the Military History collection in the basement of the IHR. Other resources include:

American accounts of the Revolution: The IHR holds dozens of testimonials from men and women who witnessed the events of the revolution first hand. Many of these are soldier diaries held in the military history section of the library. Others are civilian accounts from the period. Below is selection of a much larger list of resources:

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The British perspective

The observations and justifications of those men and women who opposed the revolution are represented in many sources across the IHR North American, Imperial and Military History collections. These resources include British government correspondence, loyalist testimonials, published pamphlets and soldier diaries.

British pamphlets of the American Revolution: The IHR holds the 8-volume British Pamphlets on the American Revolution series as a result of generous donation from Professor Peter Marshall. This set, and the introductions and footnotes contained within it, is a comprehensive resource for students attempting to understand the British debate over nature of the revolution and the British Empire in the second half of the eighteenth century. It is also a wonderful counterpart to Bailyn’s Pamphlets of the American Revolution.

British government and military officer correspondence: The accounts of British officers tasked with subduing the rebellion in the colonies can be found in several IHR collections, including our imperial and military history sections. Key generals and admirals represented in IHR holdings include the Marquis Cornwallis (1738-1805), Lord Admiral John Mantagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792) )and Thomas Gage (1721-1787).

The library also holds numerous volumes of correspondence conducted between British political leaders during the imperial crisis and the subsequent American rebellion. Important published volumes include the correspondence between George III (1738-1820) and Prime Minister North (1732-1792) and the letters of Charles James Fox (1749-1806), a leader of the parliamentary opposition in the 1770s and the 1780s.

British soldier correspondence and diaries: This collection includes diaries and correspondence from British military personnel who served in America between 1774 and 1783. It includes several translated diaries of German troops sent to America in the 1770s to quell the colonial rebellion. Many of these diaries can be found in the military history section of the library.

Hessian/German soldier diaries:

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North American Loyalists

The IHR holds a wide-ranging selection of material relating to those American men and women who remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. Items in the collection include loyalist refugee testimonials, diaries and letter collections. Taken together, this material is one of the strongest aspects of the Library’s collections relating to the history of the Revolution. Below is a selection of resources held in the IHR collections relating to the history of North American loyalism:

African American Loyalism: Thousands of enslaved African Americans fled to British lines in the hope that they would obtain their freedom by declaring their loyalty to the Crown. Some of these men, women and children eventually made it to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone.

Loyalist Journals:

Loyalist letters:

Loyalist compensation claims: Following the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and the end of the War of American Independence, Parliament established a commission to oversee the claims of lost property and damages suffered by loyalist refugees in consequence of their loyalty to the Crown. In 1788 Parliament sent a commission to Halifax Nova Scotia to oversee the compensation claims of Loyalist refugees. They collected hundreds of testimonials which were then processed in London. These petitions, including evidence and references and information about financial losses, shed light on the often difficult choices faced by loyalists during the revolution. It can be found on the shelf under the title Ontario Bureau of Archives Report 1904:

Also available, edited collections of Loyalist testimonials delivered before the London Loyalist Claims Commission of 1782-1783:

Memorials, Lists, and Newspapers: Also included in the collection are property lists detailing the fate of loyalists after the revolution as well as some works on the culture of loyalism during the war.

Early American Immigration History:

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American Government and Political Papers

The IHR houses an impressive collection of US constitutional and legal records, including record series for each branch of the Federal Government. The library also holds a great deal of material relating to the government of individual US states, including the records of state constitutional conventions and, where relevant, the records of pre-revolutionary colonial governments. Our resources are particularly strong in the early constitutional history of the United States (civil war)

Early US Constitutional History

Documents relating to the development of the US Constitution for a central component of the IHR’s holdings in American political history. The library’s collection of items relating to the creation, ratification and adoption of the constitution between 1787 and 1791 are particularly strong.

General Resources

The Constitutional Convention:

Federalists vs Antifederalists: The debates that raged in Philadelphia over the summer of 1787 over the structure and nature of the new Federal Constitution were followed by equally intense arguments in state legislatures over the document’s ratification. The ratification debate (1787-1789) pitted those who supported ratification, the Federalists, against those those who opposed it, the Antifederalists. Ultimately, the document that emerged from this process was nearly identical to that draft agreed upon in 1797 – with the notable exception of the first ten amendments (the Bill of Rights) which were added to abet Antifederalist fear of an overly powerful central government.

The largest and most wide-ranging published compilation of documents relating to the campaign to ratify the Constitution held by the IHR library is the twenty-six-volume The Documentary history of the ratification of the Constitution (Madison, 1976-[2013]). Each volume in the series covers the debates over ratification in an individual state and includes a range of primary sources including legislative debates, published pamphlets and letters. Other resources include:

For documentary compilations and other documentary resources for American constitutionalism before the ratification of the Constitution see:

Federal Government Records: Records from the three branches (executive [the office of the President], the judiciary [The U.S. Supreme Court]; and the legislature [both houses of Congress]) of the US federal government from 1789 to 1800 are on open access in the IHR library. Federal series for the years following 1800 are available onsite upon request.

The IHR library collections hold over 130 volumes of sources detailing the formation of US state governments and the process through which new states were added to the union throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. These resources include the minutes of various states’ constitutional conventions, the constitutions themselves, correspondence concerning state constitutionalism and documentary compilations of papers relating to the development of state government. Students of US western expansion, as well as those interested in the recalibration of state sovereignty in the wake of the Civil War (1861-1865) will find these resources useful. The list below includes samples of state government resources in the IHR. It is by no means exhaustive. All items relating to state government are classified under the ‘US’ shelf mark, most of these resources are not on open access but are onsite and can be requested in the Library Office for same-day use.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, ConnecticutDelaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin

See also:

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The Early Republic and the Antebellum Period, 1783-1860

The library houses an impressive collection of resources covering the period from the ratification of the Constitution in 1789 to the coming of the Civil War. Our collections for the period are particularly strong in the areas of constitutional history (listed above), political history and western expansion (listed below).


Papers of prominent politicians:

The Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1803-1806

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson accepted Napoleon Bonaparte’s offer for the purchase of the remaining territory claimed by France in the North American interior. Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to head the Corps of Discovery Expedition to the Pacific Ocean in order to survey the land and to record their impressions of the natural resources and the Native peoples they encountered. Sources on the expedition available in the North American Room include:

The Texas Revolt/Revolution and the Republic of Texas, 1835-1845

Following the Mexican War of Independence, the Mexican government enacted new immigration legislation to encourage migration into, and the economic development of, the northern Gulf provinces. By the 1830s, Anglo English speakers outnumbered the established Tejano population and tensions over religion, political/state centralization and the expansion of slavery in the province led to a Anglo revolt and, ultimately, to the establishment of the independent Republic of Texas. Texans voted for US annexation on 4 July 1845, prompting the Mexican American War the following year. Resources on this topic include:

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The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877

The IHR boasts a large collection of civil war records largely pertaining to the military history of the period between 1861 and 1865. The core of the IHR’s Civil War history collection is the Papers of the War of Rebellion series (the official account of the war published by the federal government following the conflict). The collection takes up over 12½ meters of shelving space. Other items include the personal papers of Jefferson Davis (president of the Confederacy), Ulysses S. Grant, and other leading figures during the war. In total this material takes up over 31½ meters of space.

The core of the IHR’s Civil War collection is the

Civil War Diaries: The Civil War collections in the North American Room and the Military History Room in the basement house dozens of volumes of correspondence and dairies from soldiers and officers on both sides of the conflict. Here is a selection of sources:

The North American room also holds the personal papers of many of the generals who oversaw military operations throughout the conflict. Prominent Union generals include Ulysses S. Grant, general responsible for western and Virginia campaigns 18th president of the United States and William Tecumseh Sherman, the Federal general famous for his southern campaign in the closing stages of the war. The North American room also houses several collections of Robert E. Lee’s correspondence and papers. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia.

Political leaders in the era of the Civil War:

The IHR also holds various volumes of resources relating to the leadership of the Confederacy, including the papers of the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis:

Reconstruction: Resources on the reunification of the US and rebuilding of the south following the end of war are found in the North American room.

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The Gilded Age, 1870-1900

The IHR subscribes to numerous journals that focus on the history of the United States in the late 19th century, including The journal of the gilded age and progressive era.

For an urban women’s observation about the changes brought about by technological and economic changes in late 19th-century American society see:

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US Immigration History 1840-1945

The nineteenth century saw the expansion and diversification of immigration to the United States. While previous generations of immigrants had largely arrived from Africa and Northwest Europe, immigrants arriving in the United States from the middle hailed from a broad range of countries – including Ireland, Poland, Italy, China and Japan. Arrivals from the latter two countries often faced particular hardships and discrimination (often enshrined in law) in their adopted home.

The library holds several compilations of Immigrant letters and diaries from the period:

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East Asian Immigration to the United States

US merchants and seaman expanded trade with China shortly after the end of the War of American Independence. This trade, mostly with New England, led to a small number of Chinese immigrants in cities across the northeast. The numbers of Chinese immigrants arriving annually expanded dramatically in the late 1840s and 1850s, exceeding 20,000 by 1850. The principal destination for migrants in this period was California and western territories and was largely the result of several factors including the economic boom brought about by the 1849 gold rush, and the need for labour for infrastructure projects. These migrants faced considerable hostility across the country as many white nativists spread paranoia about the ‘Yellow Peril’. Nativist activism culminated in the 1882 Chines Exclusion Act, banning Chinese migration for ten years. See:

Jewish immigration and life in the United States

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Western Expansion

The Territorial Papers of the United States is the largest body of sources in the library relating specifically to the western expansion of the US in the nineteenth century. The collection, consisting of 28 volumes published by the State Department, contain the official correspondence and government material relating to U.S. territories in the south and west of central North America. Different volumes relate to individual territories (volumes 13 through 15, for example, dear with the Territory of Louisiana following the annexation of the region from France in 1803). Users interested in the processes through which these territories attained statehood should consult the section of this guide entitled ‘state constitutionalism’.

The Early Western Travels series is another large collection of sources dealing with European and US imperialism in North American in the 18th and 19th centuries. The series compiles Euro-American accounts of the North American landscape and the culture of its native peoples in 32 volumes. As such, the sources differ substantial from those found in the Territorial Papers of the United States. Ego-sources including travel diaries and correspondence make up the bulk of the material in the series. The collection was compiled in 1904 and 1905 and editorial notes and introductions reflect the biases and outlook of the period in which it was published.

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The IHR holds a significant amount of material relating to the practice of slavery in the United States. The collection covers a broad timespan and encompasses a range of source material as diverse as official legal proceedings on the slave trade, to correspondence between a family of former slaves and their master. Letters, diaries, correspondence, official proceedings and political journals all offer a wealth of fascinating material on the subject of slavery across the United States.

General Works

The collection includes a number of general reference works regarding slavery that include the history of the practice in the US. These offer a good starting point for general research. Please note that resources for specific states are listed later in this guide.

​Personal Narratives

The collection holds a number of diaries, accounts and personal works from slave holders, ex-slaves and slaves themselves. Highlights include:


​Legal and Official Sources

Individual States

The IHR collection also includes numerous works detailing the history of slavery within specific states of the US. Areas that are particularly strong include Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. Highlighted works are listed below:

Electronic resources, periodicals and e-books

Please note that access to these resources is available onsite at the IHR, or offsite for staff and students of the IHR only.

Additional materials

In addition, the collections also contain materials of value for research out-with the traditional realms of slavery. Selections of other works that examine slavery in the United States include Eliza Wigham’s, The anti-slavery cause in America and its martyrs, a short story written by Wigham, a Scottish Quaker philanthropist and champion of women’s rights, published in 1863 describing ‘the frightful reality’ she encountered in America and detailing individual stories of hardship and cruelty.

The writings of Karl Marx also feature the topic of slavery in America, Dispatches for the New York Tribune: selected journalism of Karl Marx. Similarly, slavery is also a topic in David W. Blight’s Passages to Freedom: the Underground Railroad in history and memory. The field of art history can also incorporate slavery in the United States as demonstrated by Huey Copeland’s, Bound to appear: art, slavery, and the site of blackness in multicultural America. The topic of slavery in the United States can therefore be seen to incorporate various aspects of the library’s collections. 


Twentieth century

The library holds a varied collection covering the nation’s history in the twentieth century and beyond. The primary source material is particularly strong for diaries, memoirs and official and private correspondence from all sectors of society.


Political history is a strength of the US collection as a whole but especially for this period. The sources range from Presidents' correspondence, memoirs and interviews, the writings of two former first-ladies, Eleanor Roosevelt and Hilary Clinton, and other prominent political figures from the century.

Highlights from the presidential sources include:

.. and other political works:

Foreign relations and war

Much material will be found in the International Relations and Military collections, but examples within the United States collection include memoirs, writing from the home front, military documents and papers:

The Great Depression

Material is scattered across the collection, but examples specifically on the Depression include:

The Fight for Equality

The collection contains a variety of autobiographies, papers, letters and speeches relating to the fight for equal rights- women's suffrage and rights, Civil rights movement and LGBT rights. Examples include:

Labour history

The collections include accounts of fights for improvement in workers' rights and a number of accounts of workers in different roles including coal miners, social security, manufacturers, farmers, railroad – and steelworker. Further examples include:

Private correspondence and accounts


We subscribe to all the main American History journals, for example: American Historical Review, Journal of American History and American Nineteenth Century History. For the majority we have the complete run from the first issues published. The most recent volumes up to the last 3-4 years are kept on open access in the Current Periodicals room, located in the IHR Common Room on the ground floor. The older volumes are held in the onsite store and can be fetched by the library staff within a few hours. Older runs are sometimes located in the offsite store and can be ordered within 1-2 working days.

Journals relevant for American History are located across collections. In the general Colonial collection you will find the full run from 1892 of William and Mary Quarterly, the main journal for early American history and culture. There is also some relevant material in the military and International relations holdings.

US Special Collections

The Albert Gallatin Collection

There are items in the US collections that once belonged to prominent early American statesman Albert Gallatin (1761-1849). These works came to the library as part of the Conway bequests of the 1920s and 30s and represent a selection of Gallatin’s – much larger – personal library. They provide us with an insight into the type of works owned by Gallatin how he organized his library. 

A series of articles on the IHR blog give further information about this collection:

Related IHR collections

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