European History Collection Development Policy

Bobst Library, New York University
Andrew Lee, Librarian for European and World History


The European history collection directly supports the College of Arts & Science and the Graduate School of Arts & Science programs leading to the BA, MA, and Ph.D. in history. The Department of History offers graduate study in European history from the medieval period through the twentieth century, with concentrations available in medieval Europe (fall of Europe to 1453), early modern Europe (1400 to 1789) and modern Europe (1789 to present). In 1997, the Department has a full-time faculty of 45, 16 of whom are Europeanists.

The History Department offers the following joint Ph.D programs: with the Institute of French Studies, in French history; with the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, in modern European and Jewish history; and with the Onassis Center for Hellenic Studies, in Byzantine and modern Greek history. The department is developing an MA in world history to begin in Fall 1998. In addition, the History Department has close ties to various programs and national houses including the Program in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Program in Women's Studies, Center for European Studies, and Glucksman Ireland House. A minor field of concentration in comparative women's history (for the Ph.D.) and a specialization in women's history (for the MA) indicate an additional area of strength within the department.

This policy statement describes the Bobst collections relating to European history -- primarily British, French, German, and Italian -- through the World War II era. Contemporary Western Europe, Jewish Studies, Eastern Europe, and the history of the Iberian peninsula are not included in this statement.

The collection supports teaching and research in additional departments, programs, and divisions including: French, Germanic Languages and Literatures, Italian, Liberal Studies, Sociology, Museum Studies, Politics, the Gallatin School, and the School of Education.


  1. Language

    The collection consists of materials in English, French, German, Italian, Greek and, to a lesser extent, additional European languages.

  2. Geographical Areas

    General emphasis is on the history of western Europe, in particular Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy, as well as Greece and the Balkan peninsula. The collection also includes, at a lower level, materials on the history of present-day Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, and the Scandinavian countries.

  3. Disciplinary Emphases

    Historical materials are widely dispersed in the Library of Congress classification. This statement is based primarily on evaluation of the relevant D classes (General and Old World History), with some attention to additional classes, including: CB (History of Civilization and Culture, CE (Chronology), CT (Biography), HN (Social History), HD (Economic History), HQ (Family, Marriage, Woman, Sexual Life), BR (Christianity and Church History), and BX (Christian denominations).

    Generally speaking, the strengths of the collection are in political, social, intellectual and cultural history. However, retrospective coverage in these areas is uneven, with some classes lacking older primary and secondary sources. Current collecting is based on domestic and foreign approval plans. Yankee Book Peddler supplies academic and general trade publications for United States and some British imprints; a slip-only plan with Blackwell's Oxford provides further British coverage. Book and slip programs are maintained with Harrassowitz for German imprints, Touzot for French imprints, and Casalini for Italian imprints. An ordering plan with Eddie Ryan for Irish imprints was begun in October 1997. The approval plans currently in place provide more consistent and stronger coverage of publishing output than was previously the case. This is particularly noticeable with the Yankee Book Peddler plan, which began in late Spring 1996.

  4. Chronological Periods

    The collection includes primary and secondary sources for all periods, from the medieval era through 1945. Retrospective coverage is generally most extensive for the medieval (ca. 700-1450) and modern (ca. 1789-1945) periods. The early modern period is of increasing interest in the department; currently, books on this period are collected on a par with other periods.

Types of Materials

  1. Included

    Monographs, monographic series, facsimiles, reprints, atlases, conference proceedings, newspapers, journals, microforms, book catalogs of major historical collections and exhibitions, video recordings, and electronic media.

  2. Excluded

    Textbooks, manuals, maps, manuscripts, pamphlets, newsletters, and juvenile and popular materials.

    Genealogical materials such as birth and death records are not collected, with the exception of certain genealogical reference materials (primarily dictionaries of names) held in General and Humanities Reference. Immigrant records (passenger lists, registers of birth) are not collected beyond basic bibliographies.

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Collection

See Subject & Collecting Levels

Subject & Collecting Levels

The following discussion by country is based primarily on collections in the classifications listed above.

Great Britain & Ireland

Collection Description

British history is the best represented among the retrospective materials for European countries. The collection includes an extensive collection of primary sources, with largely complete runs of state and legislative documents, including for the medieval and early modern periods:

  • Calendar of Close Rolls (1227-1509)
  • Calendar of Charter Rolls (1226-1516)
  • Calendar of Patent Rolls (1216-1582)
  • Calendar of State Papers (1574-1675)
  • Pipe Rolls Series
  • Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the Middle Ages

The modern period is represented by the Irish University Press series (1000 volumes) of selected 19th-century Parliamentary Papers, as well as the 145-volume House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century and additional 18th-century House of Commons collections in microform. The annual bound sets of 19th- century and 20th-century sessional papers for the House of Commons are also available in microprint/microfiche. The collection also includes complete runs of the House of Commons Debates since 1803 and the House of Commons Journal since 1547. Volumes of Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939 are available in print form.

Publications of history societies are also available, including the Camden Society, Royal Historical Society, and reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission detailing holdings of private, non-governmental papers. Local history series are also well represented, including the Victoria County histories, and publications of the Chetham (Lancaster/Chester) and Surtees (Northumbria) societies, Archaeologia Cantiana (Kent) and London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, among others.

There is a very good selection of secondary sources for all periods and a strong collection of periodicals.

Microform sets pertinent to British history include:

  • English Literary Periodicals
  • Early British Fiction pre-1750
  • Early British Periodicals
  • Early English Books I, 1475-1640
  • Early English Books II, 1641-1700
  • British Documents on Foreign Affairs. Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print, Series F: Europe, 1848-1914

The complete run of The Times of London is also available on microfilm, along with its printed indexes.

Collection Size and Current Collecting Strategies

Current strategy is to maintain the strength of the collection at the country level through the approval plans. Presently, there is one faculty member specializing in British/Irish modern history and one teaching medieval English history. The collection is more than adequate for current teaching/research needs in the department. I do not check bibliographies or current review journals in British history.

The presence of Ireland House on campus, with an active program of visiting scholars and a new Irish Studies minor, has stimulated interest in Irish historical resources. In 1996-7 we initiated subscriptions to half a dozen additional Irish historical journals. I also do some firm ordering based on checking of catalogs and publication lists provided by Kenny's. Short print runs are an issue for materials published in Ireland; our plan with Eddie Ryan is intended to address this problem. Purchases are in English only.


Collection Description

The collection is generally strong although not as extensive as that for British history. Numerous major collections of primary sources are available, including,

  • Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France
  • Chartes et diplomes relatifs a l'histoire de France (incomplete)
  • Collection de documents inedits sur l'histoire de France
  • Publications de la Societe de l'Histoire de France
  • Memoires sur l'histoire de France
  • Sources d'histoire medievale

Several of these series are in fragile condition and little-used today, but represent the 19th and early 20th-century foundation of scholarship on the political history of medieval and early modern France.

Generally, the collection provides less source material for the political history of the modern period. We have a few years only of Le Moniteur universel (published 1789-1914) in Special Collections and the Journal officiel from 1876-1940 (published 1868- ) on microcard. Journal des debats et des decrets [title varies] is on microfilm from 1789-1814. Archives Parlementaires is available for the years 1789-1839 in the stacks. Both major sets of Documents diplomatiques francais for the years 1871-1914 and 1932-1939 are also available in print form.

Local history coverage is somewhat inconsistent and less strong than that for Great Britain. Retrospective holdings include older sets of local society publications such as Revue des Pyrenees and Revue de Gascogne and Memoires de la Societe de l'Histoire de Paris. Current collecting is limited to basic periodicals such as Revue du Nord (1981-present) and Annales du Midi (1981-present).

There is a good selection of secondary sources for all periods; current selection emphasizes the medieval and modern periods. There is a good selection of English-language periodicals. The selection of French-language periodicals should be examined for additions.

Microform sets relevant to French history are:

  • French Political Pamphlets, 1547-1648
  • French Books before 1601 and 1610-1700
  • Utopies au Siecle des Lumieres
  • La condition ouviere, volume II
  • Fin-de-Siecle Symbolists and Avant-Garde Periodicals
  • U.S. State Dept. Central Files -- France: Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs, 1945-1954

The complete run of Le Monde (Paris) is available on microfilm, along with its printed indexes.

Collection Size and Current Collecting Strategies

Beginning in 1996 I have been checking lists of works published in French Historical Studies and French History and purchasing, in most cases, those monographs not received via approval plans. I also monitor le Bulletin Critique du Livre Francais.

Presently the History Department has a high concentration of Europeanists whose primary interest is France. The Institute of French Studies creates an additional source of demand for materials related to contemporary French society and politics as well as recent history. For these reasons collecting in French history requires additional attention with regard to number of copies and variety of materials selected.


Collection Description

The collection focuses to a large degree on the modern German state from the Kaiserreich forward, with considerable emphasis on the Third Reich (1933-1945). Fewer materials, particularly secondary sources, are available on the Holy Roman Empire; there is reasonably good coverage on Prussia from the eighteenth century forward. Local history is limited to selected monographs or monographic sets on individual cities; there is little at the regional level.

For the medieval period the Monumenta Germaniae Historica provides a good selection of primary sources, but the secondary source material is limited. For the twentieth century, there are numerous secondary sources in German and English but the selection of primary sources should be strengthened. Two recently published sets, Hitler: Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, 1925-1933 and Die Tagebucher von Joseph Goebbels have been purchased.

Microform sets relevant to German history are:

  • German Baroque Literature, the Yale Collection,
  • OSS/State Department Intelligence and Research Reports, Part IV: Germany and its Occupied Territories during World War II and Part V: Postwar Europe,
  • The U.S. Occupation of Germany: Educational Reform, 1945-1949.
Collection Size and Current Collecting Strategies

Among books received via approval in both German and English, the history of twentieth-century Germany predominates. This emphasis corresponds with teaching in the department. As interest in the early modern period has increased, we have made retrospective purchases and I continue to buy selectively in German; much relevant material is religious history. I purchase relatively few German-language books for the medieval period. I do not regularly check bibliographies or review journals in German history.

Currently, there are three Germanists in the History Department; two focusing on the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and one working in early modern religious history.


Collection Description

Emphases within the Italian history collection are the medieval period and the twentieth century, which corresponds to teaching within the department. A fairly large portion of the collection is at the local or regional rather than the national level, particularly for Italian city states of the early modern period.

Primary sources include Documenti Diplomatici Italiani, Opera Omnia di Benito Mussolini, and Cavour Epistalario.

Microform sets relevant to Italian history are:

  • Italian Books before 1601 and 1601-1700
  • Archivio biografico Italiano / Italian Biographical Archive
  • Italy: Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs, 1940-1954
  • Corriere della Sera (Milan) is available in microfilm from 1876 to the present.
Collection Size and Current Collection Strategies

Currently, Italian national history is not a focus of teaching/research within the department, although there is increasing interest in the Mediterranean basin as a whole, generated in part by the Onassis Center. One faculty member teachers Medieval/Renaissance Italy and a second modern Italy in the Mediterranean context. I do not check review journals or bibliographies in Italian history.

Women's History

As indicated above, women's history is of particular interest in History Department; several faculty members participate in the Women's Studies program, which offers an undergraduate minor. Because of general interest and demand generated by other programs on campus, many books in women's studies should be available in multiple copies. For European women's history, primary sources of all kinds are highly desired. Significant microform resources in Bobst which offer primary sources are:

  • Gerritsen Collection of Women's History, 1543-1945
  • Archives of the Fabian Society, part 5 (including papers and records of the Fabian's Women's Group, 1919-1951
  • European Women's Periodicals (French series)
  • Witchcraft in Europe and America

Women's history is an important area of consideration for future microform purchases.

Videotape Collection

The Avery Fisher Center houses a large collection of films on videotape. The collection includes both documentary and feature films, including Hollywood and foreign productions. "Historical films" as a genre are purchased, as well as feature films from all periods which are of interest to students of European history and culture. Major European film directors are well-represented in the collection. Selections are made from various sources, including faculty recommendations and reviews in American Historical Review, among other journals.

Current Collecting Priorities

Collecting efforts presently emphasize the medieval period and twentieth-century Europe, with regard to chronological focus, and France and Ireland, with regard to national focus. Subject specialties emphasized are political, social, cultural, intellectual and women's history, with less emphasis on diplomatic, constitutional and legal history.

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