The history collection at the Penn Libraries consists of material covering these area:
- post-European contact United States,
- post-European contact Canada
- non-Hispanic Caribbean
- post-medieval Europe (other than the Iberian Peninsula)
- Trans-regional history.
Other historical collections include those of: Classics, Medieval Studies, Area Studies , the University Museum (Anthropology and Archaeology), the History of Art, Africana Studies, History and Sociology of Science, and other disciplines.
The overall quality of the Library's history collection is high, capable of supporting graduate-level research across a wide range of American and European historical topics. The bulk of the monographic collection consists of English language material pertaining to the United States and Western Europe and published by university or scholarly press publishers. The history collection also consists of significant numbers of books in German, French, Spanish and Italian. Strong collections of African, Asian and Slavic language material are included in Area Studies collections. Although many books are available online through Library purchases or subscriptions, the default format of monographs in history is print. Beyond this core, the Library purchases material widely but not comprehensively. The Borrow Direct and EZ-Borrow services are especially important for supplementing the Libraries' collections of: foreign language material, local interest publications, specialty publishers, popular periodicals, regions not collected heavily by the libraries (Canada and Oceania, for example), and primary sources.
A strong collection of online scholarly journals in English and Romance Languages is supplemented by print journals at Penn and by journals that are available through interlibrary loan. There is a significant collection of documentaries and fictional videos on DVD and streaming formats, and strong image collections, as well as extensive coverage of available electronic primary source databases, which provide access to historical collections of books, magazines, archives, manuscripts, personal narratives and related material.