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HI 386 - World War II


This guide supports the class assignment to research the themes, message, and historical accuracy of a movie set during World War II. For further assistance, visit the Reference Desk at Geisel Library or contact the History liaison librarian.


Background Information

To learn more about the people and events portrayed in your movie, you may wish to consult reference sources such as encyclopedias about World War II.  The background information you find in these sources can help you assess the historical accuracy of the movie.  There are also reference sources that provide summary and analysis of some of the movies being studied.

Encyclopedia of the American Military
     Ref UA23 .E56

Encyclopedia of the Holocaust
     Ref D804.3 .E53

Encyclopedia of the Second World War
     Ref D740 .W47

Encyclopedia of the Third Reich
     Ref DD256.5 .S57

Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy
     Ref DG571 .A1 H57

Historical Encyclopedia of World War II
     Ref D740 .E5213

Historical Atlas of World War II
     Ref G1038 .P55

Holocaust Encyclopedia
     Ref D804.25 .H66 (print version)

Magill's Survey of Cinema
     Ref PN1993.45 .M3 (first series)
     Ref PN1993.45 .M32 (second series)

Oxford Companion to World War II
     Ref D740 .O94 (print version)

Times Atlas of the Second World War
     Ref G1038 .T6

World War II in Europe: An Encyclopedia
     Ref D740 .W67


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You may be able to locate book chapters that discuss your movie.  Some may be analyses of the movie's themes and significance, while others may just be reviews of the movie as a work of art.  Try searching the movie's title in quotation marks as a Keyword.  If the title is too commonplace, add a keyword like movie, film, or war.  You may also want to search the movie director's name (e.g.:  Malle, Louis or Wajda, Andrzej) as a Subject, to find books analyzing the works of that director.

You can also look for books on World War II that cover the historical figures or battles portrayed in your movie.  Try searching the names of those people or battles as a Keyword, or browse the indexes of books about the war.  This will help you compare the movie's portrayal to reality.

Geisel Library catalog
There are a handful of relevant books in our collection, including:

  • Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies (PN1995.9.H5 P37)
  • The World War II Combat Film (D743.23 .B36)

Find books owned by other colleges and have them delivered to Geisel Library for your use.  To request a book, click on the "Request via Interlibrary Loan" link in its WorldCat record.  If you just want a chapter from the book, you can get faster service by logging in to Interlibrary Loan and filling out the New Request form for the book chapter.

Google Books
Millions of books digitized by Google and available for preview via its search engine. In the Advanced Search, enter your movie's name in the "Find exact phrase" box and limit your search to "Limited preview and full view" items.  You may find multi-page sections or even entire chapters about your film.


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Journal Articles

Scholarly journals may be the best source for this research paper.  There are a number of journals in the disciplines of film studies and history which publish articles analyzing specific movies.  Try searching the name of your movie (in quotation marks) as a keyword, and add the keyword (film* OR movie*).  Here are two examples:

  • "My Name is Ivan" AND (film* OR movie*)
  • "Lacombe Lucien" AND (film OR movie*)

If you find a useful article for which no full-text link is available, click on WebBridge to see if the journal is available in Geisel Library or in full-text via another database. If the article isn't available, use the Interlibrary Loan link in the WebBridge window to request a PDF copy of the article from another library.

Here are some search tips:

  • To make your search process more efficient, try searching all the EBSCO databases at once using the Choose Databases link above the search boxes.  Watch our video tutorial for details.
  • Look at the number of pages in an article before requesting it.  A movie review that's only half a page long is probably not worth obtaining.
  • To focus on scholarly articles, limit your results to "Academic Journals".

Academic Search Premier
This multi-disciplinary database offers scholarly journal articles and popular magazine articles on a wide range of topics.

America:  History and Life
Search this database to locate abstracts to journal articles and books focusing on United States and Canadian history and culture.

Film Literature Index
This searchable online index provides citations to journal articles and film reviews published between 1976 and 2001.  You will need to fill out the Interlibrary Loan forms to request any items you find here.

Historical Abstracts
Search here for journal articles on topics related to non-U.S. history from 1450 to the present. Use the Historical Period From/To limiter to specify your time period of interest.

Search here for full-text articles from important history and film studies journals.  If you get too many results, add a director's name or actor's name as a keyword.

MLA International Bibliography
A premier resource for scholarly research (journal articles and books) in the fields of literary and cinematic studies.


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Movie Reviews

Another type of source that may be worth consulting is movie reviews published in newspapers, popular magazines, and film journals.  Although many of these will focus on the quality of acting or cinematography, some will delve into the movie's themes or the director's intentions.  They may also provide insight into how the movie was perceived when it was released.

Reviews in Print

To find citations of book reviews in popular magazines and film journals, try the following two sources:

Film Review Index (1882–1985)
     Ref PN1995.F57
This alphabetical index of prominent movies provides citations to reviews in magazines like Commonweal, Newsweek, Saturday Review, and Sight & Sound.  Use the Journal Finder to see if the issue you need is available in print or microfilm on the Lower Level.  Some magazines such as Time now offer free full-text archives.  Requesting a review via ILL may not be worthwhile unless it is multiple pages long, so be sure to check the article's length before tracking it down.

Readers' Guide Retrospective
This database provides citations to popular magazine articles for the period 1890–1982.  Search the name of your movie and limit the results to the year in which it was released.  Use WebBridge to see if the issue you need is available in print or microfilm on the Lower Level.

Reviews Online

New York Times — Historical
This database provides full-text access to every article in the New York Times, from 1851 to four years ago.  Nearly every movie released in the United States was reviewed in the New York Times.

Times of London Digital Archive
This database provides full-text access to every issue of The Times (London) newspaper from 1785 through 1985, except for Sunday editions.  A good source for British perspectives on films.

Internet Movie Database
This free website offers a wealth of information about movies. After searching the title of your movie, click the link to "external reviews" in the menu at left, below the Awards & Reviews heading.  This will provide links to a variety of online reviews.  Some of the reviews may not be professional or scholarly, and therefore shouldn't be used as sources for your paper.

Rotten Tomatoes
Another free source of online reviews, some of which are for the DVD re-releases of movies.  Search the title of your movie to find links to reputable sources of film criticism.


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Citing Sources

See Professor Dubrulle's webpage on Citing Sources for examples of how to properly cite research materials for this paper.


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Book cover image for The World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre

Hugh Dubrulle

Library Liaison
Jeff Waller

Background Information
Journal Articles
Movie Reviews
Citing Sources

Subject Guide