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History: Books

Welcome to the library guide for history research at the University of Alabama.

Find Primary Sources Books in Other Libraries

Did you know that you can find books from other libraries and often have them mailed to UA for free?

WorldCat searches the catalogs of thousands of Libraries across the United States at the same time, and you can use Interlibrary Loan(ILL) to order the books that you find in WorldCat that are not available at UA.

Find Books

Two Search Engines for Finding Books at UA:

Scout--new search engine, searches for books as well as articles and other materials.  To limit your search to books, click into "Advanced Search" and checkmark the "Catalog only" option before searching.

Classic Catalog--old search engine, gives the call numbers and locations of books.  Select "Advanced Search" for the most effective searches.

Tips and Tricks for Finding Primary Source Books

  • Combine keywords describing your subject with such words as sources, letters, speeches, writings, documents, diaries, papers, etc. For example, searching for “World War II ” and diaries will locate diaries written during World War II.
  • Search for key people as authors. For example, let us say that you are researching the European Discovery of America. Searching for Christopher Columbus as an author will locate writings and speeches of Columbus.
  • Find secondary sources on your topic. Scan their bibliographies for primary sources. 

*Remember to try several of these techniques and consult a librarian to ensure that you are searching as thoroughly as possible.


Find Online Primary Source Books

General Online Book Collections:

Libraries' Catalog--searches for ebooks in the UA Libraries' databases and ebook packages, including Sabin Americana, Early English Books Online, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, and more.  Before searching, select "Electronic Resources" from the "Limit To" box to limit your search to ebooks.

Google Books--find citations to thousands of online books.  Some charge a fee, but others are fully available online for free.

HathiTrust--a group of over 50 libraries offer this ebook collection.

Internet Archive--increasingly one of the best sources of  ebooks.

***Google's main search page searches some, but not all, of the contents of Google Books, Hathi, and Internet Archive.


Specialized Online Book Collections:

Early English Books Online (EBBO)--"contains copies of virtually every book printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700."

Early European Books--books "published in Europe or in European languages, c. 1455-1700."

Eighteenth Century Collections Online--a digitized library of approximately 188,000 titles, representing most of the significant English- and foreign-language texts published in Great Britain and the colonies during the eighteenth century.

Evans Digital Edition--you can find many books written in America before 1800 here. 

HathiTrust-a group of over 50 libraries offer this ebook collection, lots of primary sources.

Google Books--find thousands of online books.  Please be sure to set the "Publication Date" to the time period of your event.  Also, you may wish to set "Full view only" to limit your search to only free, full-text works. 

Sabin Americana, 1500-1926--books published about the Americas.



Historians find some of the best sources by browsing the library--they spend time walking around the shelves and scanning over books. Here is a browsing guide for Gorgas Library: 

D=World History (Lower Level, basement)

DA=Great Britain




DJK=Eastern Europe




E=American History (Floor 2M)

E 75=Native Americans

E 101=Discovery of America

E 184.5 African-Americans

E 186 Colonial Times

E 201 Revolution

E 311 Washington Administration

E 337.5 The 1800s

E 410 Mexican-American War

E 415.6 Middle 1800s

E 441 Slavery

E 456 Civil War

E 660 Reconstruction

E 740 The 1900s

E 806 FDR

E 838 The 1960s and Afterwards

E860 Watergate

E 895 The 2000s

F Local History of the United States and Latin America (Floor 2M)

F 296 Gulf States

F 321 Alabama

F 1201 Latin America

F 1201 Mexico

F 1421 Central America

F 1601 Caribbean

F 2201 South America


Other important areas for history students are BR (History of Christianity, Lower Level), CB (Ancient and Medieval, Lower Level), HN (Social History, Floor 2M), HQ (Women's History, Floor 2M), Art (N, Floor 3), Military and Naval (U and V, Floor 4M).