Finding Books: History

To find books, microforms, or audiovisual materials about your subject, use the Library Catalogue. Location codes and call numbers are included for each item (if you’re not sure what these mean, ask at one of the Library’s service desks or check out our Virtual Tour.)Selected electronic resources are also included in the Library’s online Catalogue.

In many cases, the best way to begin a search for books on your topic is to use keywords. If looking for books on the history of Canadian immigration, for example, you would find few (if any) matches searching for that phrase as a Title or Subject, but would get dozens of results searching for “Canadian immigration” and “history” as Keywords. Once you’ve made a start with keywords, however, subject headings are usually the best way to continue your search: when you find a Catalogue record for a relevant book, always look at the subjects assigned it to find the headings that best match your topic (in the example just given, the relevant Subject Heading is “Canada – Emigration and immigration – History”). You can also try looking up subject headings before beginning your search, using the red Library of Congress Subject Headings volumes in the hallway behind the Library’s Reference desk.

Here are a few additional tips on history-related Subject Headings and search terms:

Examples of broad subject headings to check:historiography

military history
world history

Also, names of particular historical figures (last name first; first initial often sufficient), such as:

Cromwell, Oliver (or Cromwell, O)
Eisenhower, Dwight (or Eisenhower, D)
Howatt, Cornelius (or Howatt, C)

or particular events (the exact Subject Heading for these is often very difficult to guess, so try keywords first), such as:

Falkland Islands War, 1982
September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
General Strike, Winnipeg, Man., 1919

For the history of a particular geographical area/country, put the name of the country, followed by history, such as:

United States -- History
Canada -- History
Prince Edward Island -- History

The headings for the history of countries/places will often be further subdivided, either by time frame:

Canada -- History -- 19th Century
Canada -- History -- 1763-1867
Prince Edward Island -- History -- 20th

and/or by sub-topic:

Canada -- History -- 20th Century -- Internal security
United States -- History -- Agriculture

More generally, there are some very broad headings used to cover entire historical epochs, such as:

History, Ancient
History, Modern
Middle Ages -- History

Books (with the exception of those in Reference and Special Collections) are shelved by Library of Congress call number on the Upper Level. Microforms (microfilm and microfiche) are shelved in the Special Collections area on the Main Level. Audiovisual materials (videocassettes, audiocassettes, LPs, and CDs) are shelved in the Collaboratory on the Main Level.

Created by: Simon Lloyd, B.A., M.L.I.S.
Special Collections Librarian
Phone: 902-566-0536
Date created: 18 March 2005
Date updated: 14 January 2010