Doing Research in Sociology in the Princeton University Library
 History as a Resource 

Asking the questions of sociology, which after all can be said to be a modern discipline, of historical situations and events can provide vast and fertile fields for sociological inquery.  And at the same time, doing so also presents challenges in not assuming the cultural context and societal expectations of another time will function as do those of the modern era.  Therefore, while work in the most recent half century or so can only require the usual care and scholarly rigor in investigation and analysis, the more different the world we examine is, the more it is incumbant upon those shining the light of modern sociology into the dark reaches of the past will do well to proceed with caution. Further, to be as sure as possible that factors in law, custom, and seemingly unrelated environments, differing greatly from the present time, are not playing such a major role as to be a "dark star," shifting the assumptions and concluson of modern research so as to render them of questionable value in that remote time.   

Databases for History. These two databases index a broad range of serious scholarly articles dealing with history and culture.  Coverage begins in 1964 for articles in American History and Life, while Historical Abstracts starts with the year 1954.  Flectronic full text is most often available through simple on-screen navigation using the orange Find It at PUL button on most records. Some few others will have to be hand searched in the Main Catalog. Finally, Borrow Direct and Interlibrary Loan. can be used to acquire materials Princeton does not hold in any format.

American History and Life - (U.S. and Canada) subscription database
Historical Abstracts - (non-U.S. or Canada ) , subscription database

Historical Newspapers. Newspapers can transport one to a remote time and place with an immediacy that is compelling. Princeton's Newspaper Guide provides a portal to this rich resourch for exploring the past, and gathering resources for modern study and analysis. Note especially the USA Historical News and the Historical World News tabs on this page, and the following.

Video Resources. Videos, especially historic documentaries, provide an unparalled opportunity to see first hand what has happened at critical junctures in our history as a world people, and so open the doors for study and analysis in sociological terms. Note especially this British archive that covers events in most of Europe for a very long while:

    • British Pathe. Open Internet: <>
      Archive of 90,000 videos covering newsreel, sports footage, social history, documentaries, entertainment and music stories from 1896 to 1976
    • American Experience.. Open Internet <>
      Many of the powerful documentaries in this series from PBS television are available online. Others are often held as DVDs in the Video Library in the Humanities Resource Center at Princeton. While some programs here are dramatizations using art work and objects from the time, still others have actual footage of the events being considered, and contain interviews with those who were present. It is compelling to hear and see commentary from those who were present, even many years afterward.

Image Resources. Literal snapshots of events and persons. Note especially the Associated Press archive.and the image file from the New York Public Library.

    • AP Images
      The Associated Press' current year's photo report and a selection of over 4.6 million images from their library dating from the 1820s.
    • New York Public Library Digital Collection
      NYPL Digital Gallery provides access to over 275,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.

Page last updated 14 March 2012  in the Princeton University Library