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History: American History

A Research Guide for History from West Chester University Library.

American History in Film

The library subscribes to databases with documentary and primary source film.  Check out these databases to stream these films online for free.

Introductions to searching databases (videos)

Introductions to searching history databases (videos)

America:  History and Life and Historical Abstracts

Using Limiters in Historical Abstract and America: History and Life

Using Advanced Search with Boolean Searching


An introduction to narrowing searches in JSTOR and also using to find both primary and secondary sources.

American History Databases

Our main database  for scholarly articles for American (United States and North American) history is America: History and Life.  For history, I always suggest starting in a specialized database like this one, because it has a history focus and searching features that allow you to do very specific searches.

If you still feel like you need more sources after exhausting America:  History and Life, try expanding by using other databases/tools.

One place to go is JSTOR, which has the full text of a good number of history journals, as well as journals from many other fields of study.  The strongest point of JSTOR is that it will search the full text of every single article in there, so if you are looking for something very specific, like a person or location, you can find every single mention of it!

The other direction to go is to search our Library Search tool.  It cross searches many of our databases and will pull back related articles from many different fields of study (e.g., sociology, anthropology, area studies).

Interlibrary Loan

Spring 2020 update:  As of March 20, the ILLiad system is still operating, but please expect a longer wait for delivery of articles.  It is also likely there will be more instances in which requests are unable to be filled at all.

When searching the library's databases or OneSearch, you may find articles you want that we do not have access to.  You can get them for free through a service called interlibrary loan, and it usually only takes one or two days. 

From a database, like America:History and Life:

1.  Instead of a link to a PDF below the article, you will see a link called check availability.

2.  If we have the full text,the page that opens will provide a link under the "View It" heading. 

3.  If we don't own the full text, you can access our interlibrary loan system for articles, called ILLiad, by logging into the system using your WCU email address and password.  Look for the link on the yellow bar in the middle of the page.

4. Once you log in, you will see the link to go to ILLiad.

5. To use ILLiad for the first time, click on the link for first time users and set up an account

6. Go back to the the database window and click the link to interlibrary loan again.  Now that you are logged in, it will fill in the blanks on the request screen for you!  Hit submit and wait for an email saying your article has arrived.


From Library Search:

The process from the library search tool is even easier!  This video shows will show you how it works.

American History Primary Source Databases

Check out these databases containing information related to American History.  Also, don't forget to check out the general history databases on the "Home" page.

U.S. Government Databases

American History Websites

These publicly available websites include valuable secondary and primary material for research in history.

West Chester University   ---    WCU Libraries  25 West Rosedale Avenue, West Chester, PA 19383  610-430-4400