Main Content

HI 399 - Special Topics: World War II


This guide ties in with the class assignment to research an event or development of the Second World War, with particular attention to how that event was portrayed in The Times (London) newspaper. Start your research by searching the Times (London) Digital Archive database to locate articles that describe and comment upon the historical event as it unfolded. To obtain other perspectives on the event, search the library catalog for relevant books and search the history and full-text databases for journal articles. If you need additional material, use our Interlibrary Loan service to request books and articles from other libraries. These secondary sources will help you fill in details that are unavailable in the newspaper articles, and may provide an illuminating contrast to the point of view reflected in the newspapers of the World War II era.


Finding Background Information

Before delving into the newspaper articles, you may wish to consult reference sources in order to get the basic facts of the event in question. Reference materials can provide background information on your topic and help you identify keywords for further searching; for example, the names of important leaders, places, or events. Some reference resources include bibliographies at the ends of each entry or volume, which will point you to additional books and journal articles worth exploring.

Dictionary of American History (10 vols.)
     Ref E174 .D52

Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe
     Ref DJK6 .E53

Encyclopedia of Russian History (4 vols.)
     Ref DK14 .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

Modern Germany: An Encyclopedia of History, People, and Culture (2 vols.)
     Ref DD14 .M64

Oxford Reference Online
This database enables you to search within many of Oxford's highly-regarded reference works in the field of history, including the Oxford Companion to World War II, Oxford Companion to British History, and Oxford Companion to American Military History.

Twentieth Century Britain: An Encyclopedia
     Ref DA566 .T835

World War II in Europe: An Encyclopedia (2 vols.)
     Ref D740 .W67


Return to top


Find Newspaper Articles

Newspaper articles offer firsthand perspectives on major developments in world history. Although the primary intention of newspaper article writers is to report and communicate the facts, they also implicitly convey their assumptions and ideologies through how they choose to report the story. By reading multiple articles about a particular person or event, you can often discern the underlying perspectives and biases that color the newspaper's presentation of the facts. Naturally, this presentation may in turn influence the opinions and attitudes of political leaders and the general public, and shape how the historical narrative is written.

Times (London) Digital Archive (1785-1985)
This database provides full-text access to every issue of The Times (London) newspaper from 1785 through 1985, except for Sunday editions. It can be searched by keyword and date range, with options to limit to specific sections of the newspaper. Here are some tips on how to use this database effectively:

  1. Before you begin searching, use reference sources or a textbook to discover keywords to search and to identify starting and ending dates for the period you want to examine.
  2. Enter these starting and ending dates into the "Limit the current search by date" textbox. This date can be specified in a variety of ways. For example, enter "September 1939 to October 1939" to study the invasion of Poland, or 7/17/1945-8/2/1945 to explore coverage of the Potsdam Conference. You may wish to stretch the date range several weeks or months beyond the end date of your event of interest, in order to read articles written about its aftermath.
  3. Combine keywords using Boolean operators (AND and OR) to increase the specificity of your search. For example, searching France will yield a massive number of hits, so try searches like (France AND (fall OR surrender)) to produce more focused results.
  4. If you do not find enough articles, switch the search to "in entire article content", which may pick up articles that contain brief mentions of your events or people.
  5. To obtain opinion pieces only, use "Limit the current search by section" and checkmark "Editorial and Commentary". However, remember that a newspaper's ideological inclinations can also be detected in news articles.
  6. In the Results list, click on an Article link to view the article. To print, use the Print button in the left-side menu rather than the Internet browser's print option, so that the article will fit nicely on the printed page.

Return to top


Find Books

Books are typically written well after the historical events they analyze, so they incorporate information that was unavailable to the writers of newspaper articles documenting an event as it unfolded. This may include the knowledge of subsequent events, declassified documents, or newly-discovered primary source materials (such as memos or diaries) that change the way historians view an event. As a result, books (as well as journal articles) may offer a very different perspective than The Times (London) articles do. Additionally, book authors may exhibit different ideological inclinations than newspaper columnists.

Geisel Library Catalog
To find relevant books, you will want to try a combination of Subject and Keyword searching in the Geisel library catalog. Start by conducting Keyword searches on the events, people, and places addressed in your newspaper articles. For example, keyword searches on "Guadalcanal", "Chamberlain AND Churchill", or "Hiroshima AND (atomic or nuclear) AND bomb*" will unearth directly relevant books as well as more generalized books that contain relevant chapters. When you find a useful book, click on its subject headings to identify similar works.

For broader topics that can't be characterized by the names of people, battles, or conferences, try performing Subject searches on some of the subject headings listed below. This will find books of a general nature about World War II and the countries involved in it.

  • World War, 1939 1945
  • World War, 1939 1945 - Campaigns
  • World War, 1939 1945 - [Country Name (e.g., France, Great Britain, or Japan)]
  • World War, 1939 1945 - Diplomatic History
  • World War, 1939 1945 - Naval Operations
  • World War, 1939 1945 - Peace
  • Europe - Politics and Government - 1918 1945
  • [Country Name] - Foreign Relations - [Browse for time period that includes WWII]
  • [Country Name] - Politics and Government - [Browse for time period that
    includes WWII]

By searching WorldCat (an online catalog encompassing the holdings of thousands of libraries worldwide), you can identify relevant books owned by other colleges and have them delivered to Geisel Library for your use. Try performing Subject searches on the same subject headings you used or discovered in the Geisel Library catalog. You may wish to combine these Subject search terms with keywords corresponding to the names of events or historical figures.

When you identify a relevant book in WorldCat, consider requesting it through Interlibrary Loan by clicking on the "Request ILL" link in its WorldCat record. Books requested through WorldCat are usually delivered to Geisel Library in 1-2 weeks, so be sure to start your research early. You will be emailed when your book arrives, and you can check it out for a specified borrowing period.


Return to top


Find Articles

As with the book catalogs, search the journal databases using keywords related to your topic, combining concepts together using the Boolean AND and OR operators. Once you find relevant articles, examine the subject headings that have been assigned to them and conduct Subject searches on the ones that seem most potentially fruitful. Be sure to read the bibliographies of articles to identify additional sources worth tracking down.

If there is no link to the full text of the article, click on the WebBridge icon to determine whether the journal is available in the Geisel Library or in full-text via another electronic database. If the article isn't available, consider clicking on the Interlibrary Loan link to request a PDF copy of the article from another library. Within a week, you should receive an email indicating that the article is available to access.

America: History and Life
The best place to start for topics involving the United States. Be sure to use the Historical Period From/To limiter (down below the full text limiter checkboxes) to specify your time period of interest.

Historical Abstracts
The best place to start for non-US-related topics. Again, use the Historical Period From/To limiter (down below the full text limiter checkboxes) to specify your time period of interest.

Academic Search Premier
A broad index providing abstracts and some full-text of scholarly and popular journals for a range of academic areas, including history.

Arts & Humanities Citation Index  (AHSearch)
This index provides citations to more than 1,300 arts and humanities journals. Watch for the Saint Anselm College label in your search results, indicating that the journal is available at Geisel Library.

Search here for full-text articles from major journals in the humanities and social sciences, including a number of important history journals. For tips on how to use JSTOR effectively, see our User Guide.

Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
Search this database for citations and abstracts from journals in political science and related fields. This database is worth searching if your topic has a significant political dimension.


Return to top


Selected Websites

These websites were handpicked for the authoritative nature of their content. Although general websites are not acceptable as sources for this paper, these websites contain transcriptions of primary source documents from the World War II era. Such documents can provide a firsthand perspective on the events that you are researching.

Avalon Project
This massive undertaking by Yale University has digitized thousands of primary-source documents in the areas of law, history and diplomacy. For this project, try exploring the World War II Documents collection. It includes documents on Nazi-Soviet relations, documents from all major conferences, formal agreements, and both the British Blue Book and French Yellow Book.

Documents of World War II
This is an excellent but no-frills collection of primary source documents from World War II. Included are speeches, memoranda, telegrams, and official government statements.

Foreign Relations of the United States (1861-1960)
The Foreign Relations of the United States series is the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions that have been declassified and edited for publication. Keyword-searchable volumes are available on the Washington and Casablanca Conferences, Cairo and Tehran Conferences, Potsdam, and Yalta.

World War II Resources
Primary source materials on all aspects of the war. Includes the Pearl Harbor attack hearings, speeches by Roosevelt, diplomatic documents from Britain and France, and many other documents.


Return to top


Citing Sources

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


Return to top