Colonial Era and the Constitution

Welcome to the beginning! In this exciting period of American history, we fought for our independence and then, with a lot of discussion and a few false starts, created the United States. Because we live in Massachusetts, the sheer volume of primary sources on this topic can quickly overwhelm even college professors! Try to narrow your research to a particular area. You might start by finding an entry in a good print encyclopedia or by reading a short, general book on the Revolutionary War or the crafting of the Constitution. This will give you an overview of the subject and help you to refine your search. Check out the starting your research project page before you begin! Some possible subject areas for the colonial era and the Revolutionary War include: Tax and tariff laws as causes of the American Revolution Slavery in the northern colonies Sea battles of the American Revolution Religious diversity in colonial America Thomas Paine and the impact of his pamphlet, Common Sense

We can't fit every resource about colonial history and the Revolutionary War on to this list! A pathfinder is just the beginning of building your bibliography.

Reference materials

This is the place to start any research project. Reference books offer short, authoritative information on every topic. These books must be used in the library. Most contain bibliographies of important books on your topic. A good first stop would be any of the standard encyclopedias in the Beaver collection: Encyclopedia Americana, World Book or Britannica.


Britannica Online Look under United Sates. Use the Table of Contents on the left and scroll down to Colonial America to 1763 to read about the colonial period. Or search for American Revolution.
Gale Virtual Reference Library


Allison, Robert. (1998). American eras: the revolutionary era, 1754-1783. REF 973.3 A15 1998 Look for the volume with George Washington on the spine.
Cooke, Jacob. (1993). Encyclopedia of the North American colonies. REF 973.2 En1 1993 A 3 volume set with navy blue covers.
Jaycox, Faith. (2002). The Colonial era. REF 973.2 J33 2002
Purvis, Thomas. (1995). Revolutionary America, 1763 to 1800. REF 973.3 P67 1995


Look for books about the colonial period at 973.2 and use the subject term North America -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775. Look for books about the American Revolution at 973.3 and use the subject term United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783. Biographies can be found at 921, listed alphabetically by the subject's last name; for example, a biography of Sam Adams (brewer and patriot) would carry the call number: 921 Adams.
Aronson, Marc.(2005). The real revolution : the global story of American independence. 973.3 Ar5 2005 238 pages.
Collier, Christopher. (1998). The American Revolution, 1763-1783. 973.3 C69 1998 95 pages.
Ellis, Joseph J. (2007). American creation : triumphs and tragedies at the founding of the republic. 973.3 El5 2007 283 pages.

Other Resources


For these Gale Group Resources, use the subject term: American Revolution, 1775-1783 or United States History, 1600-1775 (Colonial Period).
Biography in Context For information on famous people associated with the colonial period or the American Revolution. Search by the person's last name.

US History in Context

History Study Center

Issues and Controversies in American History

SIRS Copy this subject heading: U.S., History, Revolution (1775-1783) or U.S., History, Colonial period (ca. 1600-1775) and paste it into the search field.


In the BCDS collection:

Founding brothers. DVD 973.4 FOUN 2-disc History Channel look at Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Washington and Hamilton.

Internet Sites

Library of Congress Colonial America (1492-1763). Timeline, biographies, illustrations.
National Park Service If you're planning a visit to nearby Revolutionary War sites in Lexington and Concord, check out these timelines, maps and narratives.
National Archives Primary sources!
Salem witchcraft trials Maps, archival material from the University of Virginia.

BPL: Electronic resources

History Study Center This resource was designed just for students! Start here to learn more about the colonial period and the American Revolution, see a timeline of important events, learn about key people and places. An excellent starting point for your research.
History Resource Center: U.S.. A good starting point for pre-search and fact-checking as well as more advanced searches. Use the subject search United States History, 1600-1775 (Colonial Period) or American Revolution, 1775-1783. This site will also let you limit your searches to reference, biographies, periodicals, news, primary sources or maps and multi-media.
America: History and Life. This database indexes scholarly and popular articles on American history. You can limit your search to full text if you want articles instead of citations.
Archive of Americana. Search for primary sources: pamphlets, newspapers and government publications.

Updated, 4/11