World History: Topical Overviews
Why use a reference work?
Reference works help you rapidly acquire an authoritative overview of a topic, relaying fundamental facts and interpretations of those facts that have won the consensus of most scholars in a discipline. Because each entry in an encyclopedia, dictionary, or handbook is written by an expert scholar and typically also includes references to standard scholarly works on a topic, they can be a useful starting point for deeper research into aspects of a topic that scholars continue to debate.
While reference resources on the open web, such as Wikipedia, can be a useful beginning point for your work, you should bear in mind that a resource editable by private individuals working on their own or, in the case of Wikipedia, anyone with web access, does not bear the same authority or maintain the same objectivity as a resource produced by a professional scholar and/or published by a respected publishing company. Similar to scholarly reference works, Wikipedia articles often also contain citations to serious scholarship, in print or online, which you can find on your own or with the help of a librarian. So remember: Wikipedia is an acceptable starting point for research, but you should always make an effort to locate, evaluate, and cite resources with a greater degree of authority when you produce your final research.
Mir Ali Tabrizi, an example of Nas-Taliq style Persian calligraphy from the Timurid period (15th-16th c.). Public domain (source).
Biography & Genealogy
- Biography & Genealogy Master Index This link opens in a new windowAccess to nearly 6 million biographical entries.
- Biography Reference Bank This link opens in a new windowBiographical information on approximately half a million people.
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography This link opens in a new windowYour guide to the who, when, and what in British history: full, accurate, and concise articles on noteworthy people in the history of the United Kingdom.
Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Handbooks
- Cambridge Histories Online This link opens in a new windowThe Cambridge Histories is a globally respected series of over 300 volumes spanning fifteen subject areas across the humanities and social sciences. Presenting history as a continuous and evolutionary process, the Cambridge Histories offer a big picture perspective in each subject area.
- Daily Life through History This link opens in a new windowInformation regarding the daily lives of people from civilizations and cultures of the past and present.
- Gale eBooks (formerly Gale Virtual Reference Library) This link opens in a new windowDozens of specialized encyclopedias and reference works across the disciplines, with contents available online in full-text.
- Oxford Bibliographies This link opens in a new windowOxford Bibliographies offers authoritative research guidance through highly specific annotated bibliographic guides. The bibliographies identify the best work available on a topic, whether it is in the form of a chapter, a book, an article, a website, an archive, or a dataset.
- Oxford English Dictionary (OED) This link opens in a new windowThe gold standard of English dictionaries: the most authoritative and complete reference work on the roots, historical development, and contemporary use of the English language.
- Wiley Online Library This link opens in a new windowMulti-disciplinary database that includes full-text journal articles and some full-text reference sources. More InfoFull-Text UB ONLY
- Internet History Sourcebooks ProjectProvides the full text of historical documents, essays on historical topics, and links to relevant web sites. Areas covered are: ancient history, medieval studies, modern history, Africa, East Asia, India, Islamic history, Jewish history, the history of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals, women's studies, global studies, and the history of science.