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Michigan State University

British Empire and the American Revolution: Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

This is a guide to researching the American Revolution in the M.S.U. Libraries from both the American and British perspectives, but is not heavy into the military dimension. Loyalists. Empire Loyalists.

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

Subject dictionaries and encyclopedias may be a good place to start researching a topic about which one knows little at the outset. They are a great help in teaching one the basic facts, dates, and scope of a topic. In addition, most offer bibliographies or "further reading references" at the conclusion of the articles to follow up on in our Library's online catalog.

This section has the following organization: a some online reference works, several print works specifically about the Revolutionary War, several print reference works on American history, several print reference works on British history with articles on the Revolutionary War.

Encyclopedia of Empire

Part of Wiley-Blackwell online.   Enormous four volume set.  Try the Browse by Topic approach.  Choose letter B, for British Empire.  There are two pages of entries.  On page 2, there are two entries, one for British Empire North America to 1783 and the other for British Empire Canada after 1783. 

Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism Since 1450  JV 22 .E535 2007 v. 1-3

Summarizes the colonial enterprises of the British, French, Belgians, and Dutch.  Thematic outline serves as a list of suggested topics included.  Signed articles, with bibliographies.  BW photos, maps, chronological and statistical tables.  Index in v. 3.

Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment

Published in paper in 4 volumes; we do not own the paper set.  Its over 700 articles examine Western society from the late 17th c. to the fall of Napoleon in 1815.  Offers definitions and interpretations of the Enlightenment; political geography of it (on nations, states, cities, towns, demographics, linguistics, and European contacts with other cultures); agencies and spaces of it (on books, journals, academies, salons, and social exchange); and Enlightenment thought and 18th c. culture (on philosophy, the arts, economics, religion, politics, biographies).  Illustrations.  All articles signed by their authors.  Each article has a long bibliography.  Maps not so good or plentiful.

Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World

Covers 1750 to the present, providing special attention to social, economic, cultural and political topics applicable to the time. Articles on countries, regions, and ethnic groups; themes involving social history, demography, family life, politics, economics, religion, thought, education, science and technology, and culture; events such as major wars; and extensive coverage of the United States.  50 maps. Provides information about and interpretation of major developments across particular regions both salient events and regional perspectives on common themes such as politics, demography, social class, and gender.

A to Z of Revolutionary America

Reference E 209 .M356 2007
Contains a chronology of events, lists of signers of the Articles of Confederation, people who attended the 1787 Constitutional Convention, signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Presidents of Congress. The dictionary portion has short entries for topics, persons, events, and places. Extensive, unannotated bibliography, pp. 319-379, with sections on individuals, events, loyalists, etc. Historical Dictionary of Revolutionary America,Reference E 209 .M356 2005 appears to be the same text.

American Revolution 1775-1783, an Encyclopedia

Main  E 208 .A433 1993 v. 1-2
Contributors' essays vary from 250 to 25,000 words and conclude with one to twenty bibliographic references. "Essays present their summaries within the context of recent historiography about the American Revolution. Free of the bias toward the British government of George III that distored the viewpoints of some early American historians and more reflective about the German auxiliaries, the writers place the enemy of the Patriot cause into clearer perspective. The former antipathy toward the Loyalists in North America has been modified by a burgeoning amount of scholarship on this subject. Likewise, typical of contemporary trends, a growing interest in the role of Indians, women, and Blacks is evident in these pages. Viewing the American Revolution as a naval war and as a global struggle is another trend."

Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution

Main E 208 .B635 1991
A Companion to the American Revolution 2003 is a more recent edition and is available online. "Contains 75 substantive articles by scholars on all the major topics related to the Revolution, its central events, context in which the Revolution occurred, its causes, its effects, and the principal concepts associated with it." The print volume has almost 100 pages of biographical entries with further reading references at the end of the book; these are not in the online version.

Encyclopedia of Colonial and Revolutionary America

Main  E 188 .E63 1990
Mostly paragraph-length entries for persons and topics. Some lengthy entries: British Empire, Great Awakening, Geography and Culture, Exploration, French Colonies, Frontier, Indian Wars, Revolutionary War. Some black and white illustrations and maps. Some further reading references.

Encyclopedia of the American Revolution

Main E 208 .B68 1974 c. 2
Updated by Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History this is a classic source on the topic, containing short entries on all manner of obscure topics related to the Revolutionary War.

Encyclopedia of the Atlantic World, 1400-1900 Main D 410 .E53 2018 v. 1-2

Spanning the half millennium from the time European explorers reached the Canary Islands to the Spanish-American War, these volumes address commerce and migration as well as the spread of new ideas, beliefs, cultures, religions, politics, monetary systems, plants, animals, and diseases. Significant individuals, influential nations, and empires are examined. With such a gamut to cover, the subjects of the alphabetically ordered entries here are necessarily representative rather than comprehensive. Averaging two to three pages in length and contributed by scholars from all over the world, the entries are accessible and concise and conclude with lists of references and further reading.

Great Events from History North American Series

Main E 178 .M23 1997

Write-ups on these events: Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, Lord Dunmore's War, Quebec Act, First Continental Congress, Battle of Lexington and Concord, Second Continental Congress, Indian Delegation Meets with Congress, Declaration of Independence, First Test of a Submarine in Warfare, Northeast States Abolish Slavery, Battle of Oriskany Creek, Battle of Saratoga, Franco-American Treaties, Articles of Confederation, Cornwallis Surrenders at Yorktown, Treaty of Paris. In each case, the article identifies key figures, summarizes the event, and provides annotated references for further reading.

Great Events from History the 18th Century, 1701-1800

Main D 286 .G74 2006 v. 1-2
Focus is Occident. Arrangement is chronological by date of event. Volume one has chapters on events 1701-1774. Volume two covers events 1774-1800. Each entry on an event gives a description of what happened (paragraph length), followed by locale, category (meaning, type of event), key figures, a summary of what happened (the longest section), significance of the event, further reading. Similar to the work just above and including some of the same topics, but scope is broader than North America. Interesting to see what else was happening in the western world in the same years as the American Revolution. Events are political, intellectual, economic, military, diplomatic, natural, scientific, religious, and cultural.

Oxford Companion to United States History

Main D 174 .O94 2001
Oxford Companion to United States History (link to version in Oxford Reference Online). Contains two dense articles of interest: "Revolution and Constitution, Era of" and "Revolutionary War." Cross references at the conclusions of these articles will be useful, as will the bibliographic references.

Dictionary of American History

Main E 174 .D52 2003 v. 7, 9
See v. 7, pp. 134-149, containing a variety of articles on the American Revolution, as a political and military history, and on its diplomatic and financial aspects. Copious cross references. Bibliographies. Maps in v. 7 and also in v. 9. Volume nine also contains primary source documents, pp. 81 through 152 on the Colonial Period and Revolutionary War.

Encyclopedia of American History, Revolution and New Nation, 1761-1812

Main  E 174 .E53 2003 v. 3
"... entries on the founding fathers alongside entries that reveal the range of voices--Native American, African-American, European-American, male and female--of the people who made the American nation." Biographical entries, topical entries, entries for places and events, laws, battles, organizations. Black and white illustrations. Some maps. Further reading references at conclusion of articles.

Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies

Reference E 45 .E53 1993 v. 1-3
Volume one: Chronology, Context, Expansion, Settlements, Government, Economy. Volume two: Labor Systems, Racial Interaction, War/Diplomacy, Social Fabric, Folkways, Life Course. Volume three: Intellect, Technology, The Arts, Education, Religion, Independence, Index. Thus, information in v. 3 under Independence, pp. 685-776 and v. 2 under War and Diplomacy, pp. 221-289 would be useful. Articles are by experts. Bibliographies. Most useful for the years leading up to the American Revolution.

Companion to American Foreign Relations

Main  E 183.7 .C658 2003
Chapters by experts. See chapter 4, "Early National Period, 1775-1815" by Peter P. Hill, professor emeritus of history, George Washington University. Bibliography. A newer edition is online: Blackwell Companion to American Foreign Relations.

Encyclopedia of U.S. Foreign Relations

Main  E 183.7 .E53 1997 v. 1-4
Volume one has an article on the American Revolution, with maps. Last volume contains appendices on chronology, national data, and a classified bibliography of reference works. Prepared under the auspices of the Council on Foreign Relations, this is the first comprehensive, multivolume reference work on the history of America's foreign relations.

Colonialism, an International Social, Cultural, and Political Encyclopedia

Main  JV 22 .C59 2003 v. 1-3
What a concept! An encyclopedia of colonialism around the world as it affects society, culture and politics! There are some useful looking articles in volume one: on the American Revolution and on the British Empire; however, because the scope is so broad the amount of material on the Americas in the 18th century is much less than in the works above in this list. But, the perspective of the writers is interesting. Volume 3 contains primary source documents.

Europe 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World

Reference D 209 .E97 2004 v. 1-6
In volume six, the index, see "American Independence, War of." There is an article in volume one, pp. 41-45; there are also a variety of other pertinent articles in other volumes listed here on other aspects of this War. Also in volume six, see the entry "British Colonies" leading to an article on North America in volume one, pp. 323-326. There are also many articles on individuals.

Oxford Companion to British History

Main DA 34 .O93 2015
Also 2003 edition is online full-text Oxford Companion to British History. A source containing primarily short entries for persons, topics, events, places, concepts, without further reading references. Presents British perspective.

Britain in the Hanoverian Age, 1714-1837 : an Encyclopedia

Main DA 480 .B75 1997
Useful for identifying people, topics, events, places, and concepts important in British history at the time of their loss of the North American Colonies. Has an article on "American Revolution" with bibliography, pp. 12-13.

British Empire: a Historical Encyclopedia  Main DA 16 .B693 2018 v. 1-2

New A-Z of Empire, a Concise Handbook of British Imperial History

Main JV 1011 .F384 2011

Short entries for persons, places, events, with further reading references.  "Compendium of all things British imperial..." from the revolt in the American colonies in 1776 to post World War II.  Concentrates on things of empire not transition to Commonwealth.

Historical Dictionary of the British Empire Main DA 16 .P315 2015

Covers its history through a chronology, an introductory essay, appendixes, and an extensive bibliography. The dictionary section has over 700 cross-referenced entries on important personalities, politics, economy, foreign relations, religion, and culture.

Historical Dictionary of the British Empire

Main  DA 16 .H56 1996 v. 1-2
Of all the European empires that developed in the wake of Christopher Columbus's voyage to the New World, the British empire became the most extensive and the most long-lasting. Their main rival in the Western hemisphere was France. From 1688 England and France fought four wars for supremacy in North America and England won. By then, this British Empire was in trouble, England had huge debts, and tried to raise revenues from the Colonies. This lead to the American Revolution; the British lost and their first empire was over. There will be many articles of interest here on persons, events, places, people groups, and governmental acts, all with at least one further reading reference. Bibliography and index at conclusion of volume two.

Encyclopedia of the Literature of Empire  Reference PN 56 .I465 S66 2010

Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism  Reference JC 359 .P335 2016 v. 1-2

Presents prominent themes, epochal events, theoretical explanations, and historical accounts of imperialism from the beginnings of modernity and the capitalist world system in the 16th c. to the present day.  Especially emphasizes 20th c. events, etc. around the world.  Imperialism defined: the military, political, legal, and/or economic control of one people's territory by another, so that the subject territory is made to relinquish resources, labor, and produce, for little or no compensation.  This work examines how imperialism has impacted societies in the Third World and how it shaped social relations and popular perceptions in the First-World countries of Europe, North America, and Japan.  Not a straight forward A-Z dictionary arrangement.  Instead there are chapters of signed entries on: biographies of significant persons, country and regional analyses, culture and the arts, history, movements/ideologies, political economy, and themes/concepts.  Many articles have lengthy further reading references.  The contributors are academics from around the world.

Dictionary of British and Irish History


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