American History, American Studies, and African American Studies


The library seeks to broadly support research in and teaching of the history and culture (including popular) of the United States. Support at the research level covers all periods—from colonial history to the recent past. Yale’s traditionally excellent collections support the needs of undergraduates, MA and Ph.D. students, the teaching faculty, post-docs, and other research affiliates.

The breadth of work of historians and scholars in American History at Yale is broad, and the library attempts to build collections to meet the needs of scholars working in a variety of time periods and geographic regions. Traditional strengths of the collection include slavery in the Americas, the history of the U.S. West and South, and U.S. foreign policy. Collection focus is moving to encompass changing directions of scholarship at Yale, including economic history; sexuality studies; transnational history, especially connections between the U.S., the Caribbean, and Latin America; as well as the history of the national security state. In addition, core slavery collections have grown to include materials that document the African American experience more broadly.    

The range of the collection is extensive, with academic and trade press and learned society monographs, scholarly and general journals and periodicals, newspapers, reference tools and scholarly series, general historical works and histories, memoirs, collected works of major political and intellectual figures, compendia of published documents, calendars of governmental letters and papers, and publications of historical societies (urban, regional, and national). 

Departments/disciplines/programs/subject areas supported

American history collection development focuses on supporting the History, American Studies, African American Studies, and Religious Studies departments, but also strives to sustain the work of any Yale student or faculty member needing Americana material. Particular strengths in the History Department include 20th century history; the history of the West; sexuality, gender, and LGBT studies; U.S. foreign policy and the national security state. In addition, Yale has seen growth in the areas of economic, business, and technology history. All four departments have a commitment to study cultural history, especially related to various races and ethnicities and their migrations and diaspora in the Western hemisphere and beyond.

The History Department recently instituted “pathways” allowing undergraduates to focus on themes across broad geographical areas. These include: Cultural History; Empires and Colonialism; Environmental History; Ideas and Intellectuals; International and Diplomatic History; Politics, Law, and Government; Race, Gender, and Sexuality; Religion in Context, Science; Technology, and Medicine; Social Change and Social Movements; War and Society; The World Economy.

The English-speaking Caribbean is now part of Americana collection development, and requires collection development collaboration across disciplines. The importance of Caribbean study has grown considerably in the last five years, with a large number of graduate students coming to Yale to study the literature, culture, society, and history of the Caribbean through the History, English, American Studies, African American Studies, French, Anthropology, Sociology, and Environmental Studies departments.

Formats collected

The library collects in all formats as appropriate:  print, microform, and databases/electronic.

The library purchases perpetual access to databases/electronic resources when possible, but also purchases subscriptions of these products if necessary. In addition, to support the efforts of digital humanities at Yale, the library attempts to collect the underlying data of databases/electronic resources. Audiovisual materials are collected selectively and on demand. Yale’s extensive microform holdings are a vast trove of primary sources supporting the study of American history. Included are manuscripts, government documents, diplomatic documents, official and private archives, and newspapers.

Specialized reference materials are acquired in print and online versions, with print versions cancelled when digital copies are deemed to be sufficient surrogates.

Americana e-books are collected selectively according to the flexibility of the digital rights management terms of publishers. 

When journals are available electronically and are securely archived, print versions are cancelled in all but a small number of circumstances when there are compelling reasons to keep a print copy.

Dissertations and textbooks are collected only very selectively.

Languages collected

Collections focus on English extensively, but other Western languages are selectively collected.  Non-Western European languages are for the most part excluded and/or collected by other library units. 

Chronological and geographical focus

The library collects extensively material published in North America for American history and for the International Collections areas: Slavic and Eastern Europe, East Asia, South and Southeast Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. European research-level works on North America are also collected.

All periods from the colonial era to the present are collected.  Current and 20th century publications are collected extensively and 19th century and earlier materials selectively.  

Collaborations within Yale

  • International Collections and Research Services (ICRS): material related to diaspora groups.
  • Center for Science and Social Science Information: United States government documents, of economic history, political economy, women’s history, and LGBT history.
  • Law Library: legal history 
  • Caribbean collaborative collecting is only beginning at Yale.  The Kaplanoff Librarian for American History will work with the Librarian for Latin American and Iberian Studies, whose responsibilities include the French and Spanish speaking Caribbean, to cover collecting needs in this area.  The challenge will be the lack of centralization of Caribbean studies and the various departments, each with different needs, which need to be serviced.   

Subject Librarian

James Kessenides