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History: Historiography and Historiographical Essays/Literature Reviews

This Guide is designed to help all library users (undergraduate and graduate students, researchers/scholars, faculty, and others identify librarians and library resources who can support them in their work.

Strategy to Search for Historiographical Sources

In addition to using the sources identified below, a useful strategy to search for historiographical literature in library catalogs and article databases is to search for:

 historiograph* (historiography OR historiographical) AND particular subject area(s) 

What is Historiography

History is a classical intellectual/research discipline with roots stretching back for centuries.  As Such, History has its own, complex tradition of literature review called “historiography.”  Simply defined, Historiography is the History of History – that is, the study of the History produced and written on a given project, including:

  • Approaches/angles to studying that history
  • Subthemes beneath a wider historical umbrella theme
  • Different historical traditions, including Social History, Cultural History, Diplomatic and Political History, the History of Science, Intellectual History, and much more
  • Theoretical Frameworks used to shape that history
  • Existing used and unused sources to research particular histories

There are also many books dedicated to historiography – both as a discipline (that is, books dedicate to the general theory, philosophy and practice of historiography) as well as books reviewing historiographies of scholarship in particular areas of history. 

The American Historical Review is the seminal journal published in the United States dedicated to Historiography on all (not just U.S.) historical topics.

Reference Sources to Assist with Historiography

There are several excellent sources to identify key historians and key works in particular fields (whether subject, temporal, or geographically based).  These may also be helpful in preparing for qualifying exams as they provide overviews of the historiography on given topics as well as the frameworks and theoretical orientations associated and/or applied with/to them.  Unfortunately the print works below are dated; much new history has been written since their publication!


Oxford Bibliographies: Annotated bibliographies and Bibliographic Essays on a wide range of subjects which not only point to excellent publications, but also provide examples of bibliographic essays, which are closely related to historiographical essays and literature reviews.