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This statement addresses the history of the United States (post-1492), Western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. Other areas of the world are covered in the appropriate collection policy statements.(Collections for the history of ancient Greece and Rome are covered by Classical Studies; Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Latin America, Russia and Eastern Europe, East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East are described in policy statements for those areas.)

I. Program Information

The library's history collections support research and instruction in the History Department as well as a wide range of other academic disciplines that also rely on historical documentation and scholarship.

The Department's strengths have traditionally been in medieval history and in European and American political, intellectual, and social history. More recently, the Department has developed strong and active programs in economic history, comparative world history, cultural studies, urban history, women's studies, early modem history (1400-1800), colonial/post-colonial studies, as well as in Jewish history. There is also a renewed interest in diplomatic history, particularly post-World War II.

II. Collection Description

The University's collections of historical source materials and scholarship in U.S., Canadian and Western European history comprise approximately 270,000 titles. Of these about 75% pertain to Western Europe and 25% to the U.S. and Canada. In addition, thousands of volumes of related material are dispersed throughout other parts of the collection in fields such as political science, sociology and law.

The overall quality of the Library's history collection is high, capable of supporting graduate-level research across a wide range of American and Western European historical topics. Noteworthy and relatively rare holdings include the major collections of medieval source material published in the eighteenth century, large sets of documents pertaining to European foreign relations and diplomatic history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and a strong collection of U.S. state labor bureau publications. Among the outstanding collections housed in Van Pelt's Special Collections are those of the Lea Library (legal and ecclesiastical medieval history), the Dechert Collection (French exploration of North America), and the Maclure collection of French revolutionary pamphlets.

The Library's collections of microforms provide a significant body of otherwise inaccessible historical source material. Some offer comprehensive coverage of a given country and historical period, some reproduce entire collections (Goldsmith-Kress in economic history, Bibliotheca Palatina), and others provide access to unpublished manuscript material, or to large numbers of previously scattered and often ephemeral texts and images. Building on its collections of historical sources, the Library has focused on filling gaps in its holdings of historical newspapers (early American, African-American, English, French, and German) and acquiring archival collections in support of current undergraduate and graduate research.

Increasingly, new collections of historical sources are being provided in digitized format, especially via the Web. Presently we provide online access to a large number of textual databases (Early English Books Online, Evans Digital Collection, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Burney Collection of British Newspapers, U.S. Serial Set, American Periodical Series Online, Artfl for French historical texts, Accessible Archives for historic U. S. newspapers, HarpWeek, an electronic version of Harper's Weekly and the Digital National Security Archive) and core bibliographic files such as Historical Abstracts and America: History & Life.

It is especially important for the Library to expand its collections in relatively new areas of strong interest, particularly the history of U.S. ethnic minorities and materials that support the study of world history from a comparatist perspective.

III. Guidelines for Collection Development

  1. Chronological

    From the medieval period to the present day.

  2. Formats

    Print, microforms, machine-readable texts. The Library also organizes and maintains collections of subject-based Internet links useful to students and scholars. Sites devoted to American and European history are included in the History: Selected Web Resources page.

  3. Geographical

    Western Europe, United States, Canada, Oceania, Southeast Asia.

  4. Language

    Typically the Library acquires publications in English and in the languages of the areas studied, with the exception of Southeast Asia.

  5. Publication Dates

    Emphasis on current materials. Some retrospective purchasing, especially the replacement of missing and damaged books.

IV. Principal Sources of Supply and major Selection Tools

Approval plans with major American and European dealers, standing orders, and faculty requests account for many new additions to the collection. The Library makes every effort to acquire appropriate information wherever published, and in whatever format.

V. Subjects Collected and Levels of Collecting

Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting
Australia, New Zealand 3E/3E
Canada 3E/3E
Europe, Medieval (300-1500) 4W/4W
Europe, Early Modern (1500-1800) 4W/4W
Europe, Modern
United Kingdom 4E/3+E
Ireland 3E/3E
Benelux countries 3W/3W
France 3+W/3+W
Germany 3+W/3+W
Austria 3W/3W
Switzerland 3W/3W
Italy 3W/3W
Scandinavia 2F/2F
Southeast Asia 2E/3-E/3F
United States (political, economic, intellectual, social) 4E/4E
African-American history 3E/3E/4E
Jewish American history 3E/3E/4E
Asian American history 2E/3E/4E
Military history 3E/3E
Colonialism 3W/3W/4W
Historiography 4W/4W
Urban history
U.S 4E/4E
Europe 4W/4W
Women's history 3W/3W/4W

VI. Subjects Excluded

VII. Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

Proximity to the extraordinary historical collections of the libraries and archives of Philadelphia and other metropolitan centers in the northeast gives scholars access to an enormous body of material, both published and in manuscript. Locally, these include most notably the collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Library Company, and the American Philosophical Society Library. The library of the Center for Judaic Studies, though housed separately, is now fully integrated into the University Library system. The collections of the Balch Institute, the College of Physicians, and the Presbyterian Historical Library are also valuable resources for Penn's historians.