General encyclopedias provide excellent historical information on countries and events, as well as historical figures. The sets have been criticized, however, for their lack of updating resulting from recent historical research and on current political and economic conditions throughout the world.

World History

G1. Encyclopedia of World History. 6th ed. Peter N. Stearns, ed. William L. Langer, compiler. Houghton Mifflin, 2001. 1,057p. (6)

Despite the cost, this highly authoritative work is worth the price and will be useful over a long period of time. A team of scholars at George Mason University, under the editorship of a distinguished historian, updated this standard work originally compiled by William L. Langer. The chronological arrangement is by broad periods and subdivided by region and nation from prehistoric times to the 21st Century. Entries present concise information on political, military, diplomatic, and social and cultural history. Also included are genealogical charts of ruling families; lists of popes, prime ministers, and other notable political figures; and some 60 outline maps.

Note: Should the library require a world history atlas, Hammond Concise Atlas of World History, 6th ed. (Hammond, 2001. 192p. [4pa]) is an excellent choice.

G2. HyperHistory Online. (www.hyperhistory.com/online_n2/History_n2/a.html)

This site provides brief information about people, history, and events from over 2,000 files covering 3,000 years of world history. HyperHistory is defined as “an expanding scientific project presenting 3,000 years of world history with an interactive combination of synchronoptic lifelines, timelines, and maps.”

G3. World History Archives. (www.hartford-hwp.com/archives)

There are hundreds of easily accessible copies of documents for teaching and learning about world history, divided into areas for the World—Asia and Oceania, The Americas, Africa, and Europe.

United States History

G4. A Chronology of US Historical Documents from Pre-colonial Era to the Present. (www.law.ou.edu/hist)

Copies of documents on U.S. history range from the Magna Carta (1215) and Letters from Christopher Columbus to the King and Queen of Spain (1490’s) to President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address.

G5. Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, eds. Houghton Mifflin, 1991. 1,226p. (4)

This excellent work, sponsored by the Society of American Historians, includes more than 1,000 alphabetically arranged entries written by 400 prominent scholars. Entries are either short articles about specific topics and events, longer interpretive essays on broad topics, or biographies of significant historical figures. A detailed index and numerous cross-references support the highly readable text.

Note: Atlas of American History by Martin Gilbert (Routledge, 1995. [2pa]), containing 138 maps covering the period from first exploration to the 1990’s may be needed by some libraries.


It is important to note that the Texas Almanac, published biennially (1857 to date), is an important source on Texas history. Each of the more recent issue includes essays on historical topics such as the Buffalo Soldiers, the Galveston hurricane of 1900, and La Salle’s ill-fated ship, La Belle, as well as a brief sketch of Texas history. Texas Almanac, available electronically and through TexShare and on the Internet at www.texasalmanac.com, provides some data from the Almanac and supplies links to other sites pertaining to Texas history, economy, and culture.

G6. The New Handbook of Texas. Texas State Historical Association, 1996. 6 vols. 6,000p. ($350) The Handbook is searchable through TexShare and on the Internet at www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online.

The New Handbook, 13 years in the making, revises and updates an older set (two volumes published in 1952 and a supplement called volume 3, published in 1977). The new set includes updated versions of all old entries plus thousands of new articles written by 2,599 contributors. Entries concern people, places, events, organizations, enterprises, industries, agricultural development, and many other topics related to the history of Texas. There are some 6,700 illustrations and maps. Future editions will be updated electronically.

G7. The Portable Handbook of Texas. Ed. by Roy R. Barkley and Mark F. Odintz. Texas State Historical Association, 2000. (6)

Libraries that do not hold the Handbook described above, may wish to purchase this condensation of the 6-volume work. The one-volume Portable features a comprehensive overview of Texas from prehistory to the present, including 560 biographies of notables, more than 20 articles on specific groups such as African Americans and the Wends, histories of 91 major cities and towns, essays on such topics as religion and agriculture, histories of 58 forts and military camps, plus hundreds of other articles on topics related to the state’s history.

G8. Historical Atlas of Texas. A. Ray Stephens and William M. Holmes. University of Oklahoma Press, 1990. 168p. (2pa.)

This excellent work relates the history of Texas and its geography. The beginning maps concern natural resources that have contributed to the state’s history. Those that follow cover topics such as ethnic groups, Spanish and French occupation, the Texas Revolution, the Civil War in Texas, and cattle drives. Interpretative essays accompany each of the 64 maps. Some libraries may hold an earlier work, Historical Atlas of Texas by William Pool, now out of print, which will fulfill the needs of small libraries.

Price Guide: (1) Under $15 (2) $16-$25 (3) $26-$35 (4) $36-$45 (5) $46-$55 (6) $56-$65 (7) $66-$75 (8) $76-$85 (9) $86-$95 (10) Over $96

Page last modified: March 2, 2011