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History: Statistics

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


There are many times you may need statistics for your research papers.  Maybe you need to know the number of unemployed Americans during the Great Depression, or how many shipments of tea the British merchant fleet transported in the 1700s. The resources in this section can help you find these facts.

Census--access U.S. census data, offers email help with the data. The University of Virginia offers access to a great deal of historical census data through the Historical Census Data Browser.

Historical Statistics of the United States--data on topics ranging from migration and health to crime and the Confederate States of America. Fully searchable, this resource permits users to graph individual tables and create customized tables and spreadsheets reflecting their own particular areas of interest.

iPOLL--American national poll opinions of particular subjects, includes Gallup Polls, and goes back to 1935.

Statistical Abstract--a great starting point for statistics for the United States and the rest of the world, includes political military, economic, social data.  Goes back to the 1800s.

International Financial Statistics--offers estimates on population, balance of payments, trade, prices, labor, and other financial data for most countries, in some cases back to 1948.

World Development Indicators Online--provides financial data, in many cases as far back as 1960, about the economic and social development of most nations.  Includes GDP, trade, agriculture, industry, interest payments, literacy rate, unemployment, military expenditures, education, population.

American Civil War Research Database--macro and micro statistics on the U.S. Civil War militaries.

Statistical Insight--offers stats from the last couple of decades on many topics.


Statistics Hunting on the Internet

The internet is also a wonderful source of statistics—as long as the publisher of those statistics is credible. Here's a few tips:

>You can use Google Images creatively to find charts, graphs, and other figures.  For example, try "Great Depression" unemployment charts.

>When typing your search into Google, you can also use two periods between date ranges to help limit your search.  For example, Venezuela oil production 1940..2010 finds sites that track Venezuelan oil production between 1940 and 2010.

>Wolfram|Alpha is a search engine that specializes in stats.

Using Numbers to Strengthen Your Paper...

If you're planning to use a lot of statistics in a history paper, you can find practical help at Making Sense of Numbers.


Historians use the terms "quanto-history" and "cliometrics" to describe the intensive use of statistics in historical research and writing.  Using computer applications like SPSS and Microsoft Excel, historians can cull statistics from primary records, and repackage them into charts that reveal trends.

You can find historians' arguments for and against the use of statistical methods through this list in Google Books.  One provocative book that critiques the use of statistics in historical research is Jacques Barzun's Clio and the Doctors.

U.S. Election Data

Office of the Clerk U.S. House of Representatives-(1920-present)  has collected and published the official vote counts for federal elections from the official sources among the various states and territories. Breakdowns by district.

Atlas of U. S. Presidential Elections--data on all Presidential elections.

American Presidency Project: Presidential Election Data --electoral and popular vote results from 1789 to the present.