North American History Collection Development Policy


The North American history collection supports the College of Arts & Science and the Graduate School of Arts & Science programs leading to the B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in history. The Department of History offers graduate study in United States history from the colonial settlement to the present. Departmental emphases are in political, urban, social, labor, and intellectual history, from the Civil War to the present. In addition, the department offers two New York state certificate programs, which may be taken in conjunction with the masters or doctoral degree: public history and archival management/historical editing. Concentrations in women's history and African- American history are also available at the master's and doctoral level.

The History Department has close ties to the Program in Metropolitan Studies, an undergraduate sequence focusing on urban culture and policy, and the Program in American Studies, which offers an interdisciplinary approach to modern American culture leading to the master's and doctoral degree. Courses given in the latter program also rely heavily on the collections in cinema, literature, anthropology, and the performing arts.

The collection also supports teaching and research in the following departments, programs, and divisions: Politics, English, Sociology, Africana Studies, Museum Studies, the Gallatin School, the School of Education, and the School of Continuing Education.


  1. Language

    The collection consists primarily of materials in English. Selection of materials in European languages is highly selective.

  2. Geographical Areas

    Emphasis is on the history of the United States, and to a lesser extent the history of Canada. Within the United States, coverage is extensive for New England and the Middle Atlantic States, with particular strengths in the history of New York City and New York State. Materials on the South are less well-developed; those on the West (west of the Mississippi River) are not collected intensively.

  3. Chronological Periods

    The collection includes primary and secondary sources for all periods, from prehistory and early discovery through the Colonial period, nineteenth and twentieth centuries to the present. In keeping with departmental focus, coverage is generally more extensive for the period from the Civil War to the present, with strong holdings for the twentieth century.

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, CD-ROMS, and electronic texts.

  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

Based on assessment of the stack collections in LC classes E and F1 - F1200, the general strengths of the collection are in social and political history from the Civil War to the present. For this era both primary and secondary sources are well represented. Highlights are African-American history, women's history; history of New York City and state, New England, and the Mid-Atlantic region. (See Section VI for subject and collecting levels.)

Less well represented are primary and secondary sources on the discovery of America and early exploration, the Colonial period, and the American South.

It should be noted that additional materials of interest to historians are located in other LC classes, including JK 1-1600 (politics and government of the United States), HQ (Family, Marriage, Woman), HT (Communities, Classes, Races), and HN (Social History).

In addition, stack materials in all of the above LC classes are complemented and extended by numerous microform sets. These sets are are an important addition to the retrospective book and serial collection and provide access to numerous primary sources. These sets include:

  • Early American Imprints I and II
  • Early American Newspapers
  • Early American Periodicals
  • Gerritsen Collection of Women's History
  • State Secession Debates, 1859-1862
  • State Slavery Statutes
  • Slavery in Ante-Bellum Southern Industries
  • American Immigrant Autobiographies
  • Voices from Ellis Island
  • Emma Goldman Papers
  • Papers of W.E.B DuBois
  • Papers of Margaret Sanger
  • Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

Beginning with the early twentieth century, the Government Documents collection in the Social Science Reference Center is an important resource, with collections of Congressional hearings.

The Avery Fisher Center houses a large collection of films on videotape which is of particular interest to students and faculty in the public history program. The collection is particularly strong in documentaries on labor history and the immigrant experience, African-American history, and other aspects of twentieth-century social history.

Current priorities in collection efforts are:

  • acquisition of multiple copies of works in heavy demand, with special attention to women's history and African-American history;
  • strengthening of the collection in history of the American South through retrospective purchases
  • selective retrospective purchases on the American discovery/exploration, and Colonial, periods
  • selective retrospective purchases on history of the American West
  • continued purchase of materials in support of the department's archival management track.

Other Resources

  1. Related Collections within NYU Libraries

    The Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives/Tamiment Collection is a major resource for the study of United States labor and oral history and radical movements of the 20th century. The Tamiment Collection provides extensive primary materials in the form of organizational and personal records. In addition, Tamiment collects microforms in labor and union history which fall outside the scope of the general collections. Tamiment also provides a secure copy of many older or heavily-used titles no longer available in the stacks. The NYU Law library is a fine resource for American legal and constitutional history.

  2. Other Collections in New York City

    New York Public Library, 42nd Street Research Library has extensive monograph and serial holdings in United States and Canadian history from all periods. In particular, the United States History, Local History, and Genealogy Division offers a extremely rich and diverse resources in local and genealogical history. The General Research Division is home to an important collection of retrospective newspapers and periodicals. The New York Public Library, Schomburg Center has extensive holdings (both primary and secondary) in African-American history and culture. The New York Historical Society has extensive holdings in regional, state, and local history. Union and General Theological Seminary libraries have strong holdings in the religious history of America.

Subject Coverage & Collection Levels

LC Class Subjects ECS CCI DCS
E11-143 Pre-Columbia America, Indians of North America; early discovery period B/C B
E151-E183 US History-General: sources, historiography; biography; military/naval; political; diplomatic B+ C
E184 Elements in the population Ethnic groups) B/C C
E185-185.97 African-American history C C
E186-189 Colonial history, 1607-1775 B C
E201-298 American Revolution, 1775-1783 C C
E301-453 Confederation, Early Republic, 1783-1861, incl. slavery B/C C
E456-655 Civil War, 1861-1865, and Confederate States C C
E660-738 Late nineteenth century, 1865-1900 C C
E740-881 Twentieth century, 1900-1992 C C
F1-105 New England C C
F106-205 F116-130 Middle Atlantic States (New York State) C C
F206-475 The South B C
F476-590 Old Northwest and Lower Midwest B B
F591-705 The West, Trans-Mississippi and Plains A/B B
F721-722 Rocky Mountain States A/B B
F786-F788 Southwest A/B B
F851-F915 Pacific States and Alaska A/B B
Women in US History C C
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