Collection Area


History of “History” at Dartmouth

The History Department was founded in 1894 and has consistently been one the most popular majors at Dartmouth College. It is administered within the Social Science Division of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.  A traditional interest in the United States, Great Britain, and Europe has evolved to the point where the “curriculum [is] broadly international in its reach and deep in its chronological perspective.” Currently the curriculum and faculty are organized into three divisions – American, European, and AALAC (Asian, African, Latin American and Caribbean). This tripartite division was formalized in 1972. Also at that time the history major was restructured around the principle of geographic distribution. In 2002, becoming effective with the class of 2006, the Department revised its requirements for history majors, moderating the emphasis on geographic breadth to “permit students to concentrate on topics and regions that cut across these geographic divisions.”

The mission of the Department stands “at the heart of Dartmouth’s commitment to the liberal arts.” It prepares some students to go on to become professional historians; and for the majority of history students who do not pursue the discipline beyond the undergraduate level the study of history at Dartmouth provides “a general understanding of the historical foundations and cultural dimensions of the world…” and perhaps most importantly the faculty seeks to “inculcate and develop basic, critical, analytical and communication skills that have a broad application beyond the academy.”  

General Purpose

Provide library resources for undergraduate instruction and student and faculty research. The main users of the history collection are faculty and students of the History Department. However, members of many other departments make use of historical sources, and the history faculty has a wide variety of interests and stress inter-disciplinary approaches to learning, therefore, collecting needs to be done on a broadly comprehensive and even basis.

Dartmouth College Program

Dartmouth College offers an undergraduate major in history. Students have the choice of specializing in the history of the United States, Great Britain, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, or Africa. The history faculty has one or more specialists in each of these areas as well as the history of science, Native American history, African American history and women's history. Seminars, which rely heavily on library holdings, are required of majors, and an honors program, which requires a thesis, is offered.
The history collection also supports students in the Masters of Liberal Studies (MALS) program.

General Subject Boundaries

The History Department offers a broad range of traditional courses that reflect the core of the subject collection. In addition to the traditional emphasis on U.S. history, the program and collection at Dartmouth supports teaching and research for the history of women, African-American history, Native American history, the history of science, Latin American studies, African studies, Jewish studies, and Middle Eastern and Asian studies. The discipline is not limited by language or geography. There is some overlap in subject matter with the disciplines of fine arts, cultural studies, literature, government, economics, anthropology, sociology, and the sciences.


The main language collected for historical materials is English. Scholarly works, some primary sources, and important scholarly journals are also collected in French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and to a lesser degree, in Latin, Italian, and Russian. Western language material, especially English, is emphasized for non-Western regions. For the collection of materials in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean see the collection policy statement for Asian Studies.
The teaching of Arabic and Hebrew has a modest impact on History at this time.

Geographic Areas

There are no geographical limits for the history collection although traditionally heavier emphasis has been given to the U.S. and Great Britain. The history of New Hampshire and the White Mountains is Dartmouth's most comprehensive history collection. This local regional material receives broad usage by visiting researchers as well the faculty and staff of Dartmouth. Also within the U.S., there is a somewhat greater depth in the history of New England, the Middle Atlantic States, the old South, and the Middle West east of the Mississippi than on the area west of the Mississippi. In the past Canada and Western Europe occupied a second tier of emphasis while Latin America, Russia, China, Japan, Africa, the Middle East, and India occupied a third tier. This is no longer the case. Increased interest in Eastern and Western Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa, and the acknowledged interconnectedness of the histories of all regions makes it necessary to collect on a more intensive level across the regions of the world.

Chronological Boundaries

The time span covered is from the beginning of recorded history to the present, with the exclusion of Ancient Mediterranean history, which is covered by the Classics policy statement. No time period is given more emphasis than others, although because more is published on the modern era (ca. 1450- ) a larger amount of the budget is expended on that period.

Types Of Material Collected

Scholarly monographs and journals, i.e. secondary sources, are collected systematically; dissertations and video material (DVD, VHS tapes) are collected more selectively. Primary sources are heavily emphasized in teaching history at Dartmouth and these are emphasized in collection building. Historical newspapers, personal narratives (papers, letters, diaries, memoirs, etc), pamphlets, broadsides, government, legal and other documents, statistical data, and oral histories are all acquired in various formats to support the curriculum and research.
The Library has been a depository for U.S. Government documents since 1884, and the Library also collects Vermont, New Hampshire, and United Nations documents.
Textbooks and juvenile material are not collected except in exceptional circumstances.

Format Of Materials Collected

Print remains the dominant format for books/monographs at this time. Contemporary e-books are collected selectively and supplement the print collection. Historical e-books in collections such as Early American Imprints and Early English Books Online constitute critically important resources and are highly desirable. E-book publishing is growing and will be a larger force in the future as the technology evolves and improves.
Print journals are still an important component of the collection but digital editions are as important and even preferred in many instances. Databases such as JSTOR, Project Muse, the History Cooperative, and others provide enhanced searching and access that contribute enormously to our holdings and to scholarship conducted at the College.
Video materials are acquired in DVD (preferred) and VHS formats. As the distribution of video images evolves we will investigate those options.
Primary source collections in digital format are alluded to above. This is an increasingly important collection area. New collections and the digitization of older microform collections are proliferating and offering enhanced access to valuable documents, particularly in the area of history. We collect this material selectively, based on curricular needs as funding allows. Free websites, e.g. “EuroDocs,” “Gallica,” “Monumenta Germaniae Historica digital, ”The Avalon Project,” etc. are sought out and added to our library catalog.

Special Collections and Manuscripts

The Dartmouth Special Collections Library contains a substantial amount of historical material. Rare books, original manuscripts, broadsides, local oral history, and other unpublished materials, which are not in microform, are the responsibility of Special Collections and are covered by its own collection statement. Special Collections holdings on the history of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Dartmouth College are extensive, and there is a significant collection on polar exploration.

Other Resources Available

The most important outside source of information is document delivery (interlibrary loan) from large and small research collections through national, and even international, online networks. Local and regional study is supplemented by the collections of the New Hampshire and Vermont Historical Societies, the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, The New Hampshire Records and Archives, the Vermont State Archives, regional historical museums, and regional town archives and historical societies.

Revision History

December 1992 (William McEwen)
April 2009 (Francis Oscadal)

LC Class

C, D, E, F; to a lesser extent areas of B, G, H, J, K, Q, U, V; and appropriate areas in Z

Related Policies

African and African-American Studies, Archives: Dartmouth College History, Archives: Local History, Archives: Webster, Asian Studies, Classics, Economics, German Studies, Government, Government Documents - U.S., Hebrew and Arabic Language and Literature, History Of Science, Latin American Studies, Law, Manuscripts, Native American Studies, New Hampshire State Government Publications, Religion, Spanish Language and Literature, Women's and Gender Studies


Wendel Cox