The United States guarantees religious freedom in the constitution and is one of the most "religious" countries in the world. Groups seeking religious freedom were among the founders of the nation. As the country grew, so too did many denominations. Immigration and globalization have brought increased religious pluralism to the U.S.
This guide will present resources to study religion's importance in the history of America.
Websites and Other Databases
Any of the following databases are good choices when searching for articles related to American religious history:
1. ATLA Religion Database -- a good general source for primary and secondary literature, particularly for American Protestantism.
2. Catholic Periodical Literature Index -- primary and secondary literature related to Catholicism. There is little overlap with the ATLA Religion Database.
3. America: History and Life -- a good source for secondary literature. This database covers a broader range of topics than the religion databases.
4. 19th Century MasterFile -- Also known as Poole's Plus, this resource covers American and British periodicals published from the late 18th to the early 20th century.
Depending on your topic and time frame, a wide range of subject headings is possible. It is valuable to take a few minutes to think about your topic and list keywords and their synonyms. Try one or two of these keywords in discoverE, EUCLID, or WorldCat until you find an item that looks good for your topic. Then look at the full record to see what subject headings have been used. Use these to find additional items. You can also use the Library of Congress Authorities Search to search for authorized subject headings and personal names.
Use these major subject headings and refine with keywords such as catholic or women. Also try beginning with the group or topic you are interested in (for example, Catholics or Evangelicalism) and adding the terms United States and History afterward to limit the scope to historical resources focused on the United States.
Types of Primary Sources
Many different types of primary sources are available. This list may help you search for the types most relevant to your topic:
- Public records
- Official records
- Personal documents (diaries, letters, emails, financial accounts, household records, etc.)
- Artifacts (tools, clothing, music, art, etc.)
- Business and organizational documents (meeting minutes, financial records, inventories, etc.)
- City plans, maps, and architecture
- Media (newspapers, magazines, television broadcasts, pamphlets, broadsides, etc.)
- Literary texts
(Compiled from Jenny L. Presnell, The Information-Literate Historian, New York: Oxford UP, 2007, p. 94-95).