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History: 18th Century America

Eras of Early American History

It might be useful in the course of your research to know what the different eras are called and which years they include. These dates are not absolute but, should give you an idea of what the era might be called in the literature. 

Colonial Era 1607-1763
Plantation Era c. 1700–c. 1860
First Great Awakening 1730s–1740s
French and Indian War 1754 — 1763
Revolutionary Era 1763-1783
Critical Period or Confederation Period 1783-1789
Federalist Era 1788-1800
Early National Period or Early Republic 1789-1824

Reference and Background Database

On the Library Shelves (Library of Congress Classification)

  • E186-199 Colonial history (1607-1775)
  • E199 French and Indian War, 1755-1763
  • E201-298 The Revolutionary War, 1775-1783
  • E303-309 1775-1789 (incl. social life, politics, economy, etc)
  • E310-337 1789-1809 (incl. social life, politics, economy, etc)
  • E311-320 Washington's administrations, 1789-1797
  • E321-330 John Adams' administration, 1797-1801

Below are some samples of subject headings you can use to look for books on Revolutionary America in Primo.  If you don't know which subject headings to use, you may wish to do a keyword search first to identify a resource you think will be useful.  Once you have identified a resource, look at the subject headings assigned to it and click on those to get more resources like it. 

Subject Headings:
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Battlefields
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Biography
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Finance
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Naval Operations
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Participation, French
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Social Aspects
American Literature --Revolutionary Period, 1775 - 1783
Great Britain. Stamp Act (1765)
Arnold, Benedict, 1741 - 1801
Franklin, Benjamin, 1706 - 1790
Washington, George, 1732 - 1799
Washington, George, 1732-1799 -- Headquarters -- Pennsylvania -- Valley Forge
United States.  Continental Congress
United States -- Civilization -- 1783-1865

Also check for information by location and population:
Boston (Mass.) -- History -- Revolution, 1775 - 1783
Connecticut -- History -- Revolution, 1775 - 1783
Indians of North America -- History -- Revolution, 1775 - 1783


Don't Forget Interlibrary Loan for Books Not Owned/Available from Murray Library

Scholarly, reputable, peer-reviewed journals for the study of eighteenth century America

  • Early American Studies: Sponsored by The McNeil Center for the Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Early American Studies is a triannual journal dedicated to publishing original research on the histories and cultures of North America in the Atlantic world before 1850. (Messiah online availability: 04/01/2003 - present)

  • The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation fosters theoretical and interpretive research on all aspects of Western culture from 1660 to 1830. (Messiah online availability: 1979 - present (Full Text Delay: 4 years))

  • Eighteenth-Century Studies: Eighteenth-Century Studies publishes writing on all aspects of eighteenth-century culture. Eighteenth-Century Studies is the official publication of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS). (Messiah online availability: 10/01/1967 - present (Full Text Delay: 6 years))

  • Journal of the Early Republic: The Journal of the Early Republic is a quarterly journal committed to publishing the best scholarship on the history and culture of the United States in the years of the early republic (1776–1861). JER is published for the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. (Messiah online availability: 04/01/1981 - present)

  • William and Mary Quarterly: WMQ is published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. The journal quarterly issues and are a leading journal for the study of early American history and culture. It ranges chronologically from Old World–New World contacts to about 1820.  (Messiah online availability: 07/01/1892 - present (Full Text Delay: 6 years))

Regional and State Focused Publications

  • New York History: New York History is published by the New York State Historical Association. It is a quarterly, journal devoted to the history of New York State.  (Messiah online availability: 01/01/1932 - 07/01/2018)

  • New England Quarterly: The New England Quarterly publishes quality articles written on New England's cultural, literary, political, and social history. (Messiah online availability: 01/01/1928 - present (Full Text Delay: 4 years))

  • Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography: The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, is published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania since 1877. (Messiah online availability: 1877 - present)

  • Virginia Magazine of History and Biography: Established in 1893, the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, the quarterly journal of the Virginia Historical Society, publishes articles and book reviews on Virginia and southern history.  07/01/1893 - present)

Best Bets for You

Founders Online: Correspondence and Other Writings of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Also see the Early Access website.  

Harvard Library's Colonial North America Digital Collection: Provides access to wide-ranging materials digitized, from business ledgers to personal correspondence and government documents, from business ledgers to personal correspondence and government documents.

The Coming of the American Revolution, 1764 - 1776: Courtesy of The Massachusetts Historical Society. Includes many links to sites for the study of the Revolution as well as sites that include collections of documents.

Mapping Early American Elections (1787-1825); Data on America's earliest national elections. See also A New Nation Votes

Essential Documents of the Era

American Treaties of the 18th Century

American’s Founding Documents – Declaration, Constitution, Bill of Rights

Colonial Charters and Related Documents (Avalon Project)

Federalist Papers (Library of Congress)

Full text of Important 18th Century Documents (Avalon Project)

Records of the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and the United States Congress

Tried and True Primary Source Websites

Adams Papers Digital Edition

African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts

Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1719-1820

Alexander Hamilton Papers (Library of Congress)

America and the Utopian Dream

American Archives: Documents of the American Revolution, 1774-1776: 9 volumes of rare pamphlets, correspondence, and proceedings relating to the settlement of the colonies from 1774-1776

American Journeys: Eyewitness accounts of Early American exploration and settlement

American Revolutionary War 1775-1783 (New York State Library)

Antislavery Pamphlet Collection, 1725-1911

Bethlehem Digital History Project (1741-1844): Provides access to primary source materials, transcriptions, translations and contextual information relating to the early history of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Bonds Conway Papers 1763-1907 : Papers of a free African American family from Camden, SC

Boston Massacre Trials (1770)

Colonial and Revolutionary Boston

Colonial and State Records of North Carolina

Colonial Manuscript Collection (Hudson River Valley Heritage)

Commissioners of Forfeiture Proceedings 1784-1786: Forfeitures of property belonging to Loyalists in Westchester County, NY

Constitutional Convention Records (Fold3)

Continental Congress - Misc. (Fold3)

Continental Congress - Papers (Fold3)

Correspondence of Mercy Otis Warren and Hannah Winthrop

Decisive Day Is Come' -- The Battle of Bunker Hill

Defining Her Life: Advice Books for Women

Diary of Samuel Sewell 1674-1729: a judge, businessman, and printer in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, best known for his involvement in the Salem witch trials, for which he later apologized

Diary, Correspondence, and Papers of Robert "King" Carter of Virginia, 1701-1732

DocsTeach: Primary Source Documents

Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789: Courtesy of Library of Congress. Continental Congress Broadside Collection and the Constitutional Convention Broadside Collection. These collections are browseable by subject and keyword searchable.

Drums Along the Mohawk: The American Revolution on the New York Frontier

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741 - 1799

James Glen Papers, 1738-1777: Governor of South Carolina from 1738 to 1756

Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents 1610 to 1791

Jonathan Edwards Collection

Journal of John Woolman: 18th century Quaker and abolitionist

Lee Family Digital Archive

Letters of delegates to Congress, 1774-1789

Letters of Martha Washington

Martha Ballard's Diary: life as a healer and midwife, mother and wife in Hallowell, Maine from January 1, 1785 to May 12, 1812 (27 years) for a total of almost 10,000 entries.  

Monticello Plantation Database: A searchable database of enslaved people who lived on the Monticello plantation

Naval Documents of the American Revolution

Northwest Territory Collection, 1721-1825

Papers of John Jay

Perspectives on the Boston Massacre

Probing the Past: Virginia and Maryland Probate Inventories, 1740-1810

Revolutionary war journals of Henry Dearborn, 1775-1783 (Printed edition) View the original journal manuscript.

Samuel Adams Papers

Spy Letters of the American Revolution

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano - 1789 book describes Equiano's time spent in enslavement, and documents his attempts at becoming an independent man through his study of the Bible, and his eventual success in gaining his own freedom and in business thereafter.

U.S.Presidential Inaugurations: "I Do Solemly Swear": A Resource Guide

Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names: biographical details of enslaved Virginians from unpublished historical records in its collections.

William Bollan Papers (1749-1757): Agent of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in London.

William Bond Papers: Papers of a Massachusetts officer in the Revolutionary War

Historic Sites and Trails

Images and Maps of 18th Century America

Useful Links

Primo Search - Search books, articles, and media

Interlibrary Loan - Free service to retrieve books and articles not owned by Messiah

Ask a Librarian - Sarah K. Myers

Chicago Citation Manual - Chicago examples for formatting bibliography and footnotes

ZBib - Bibliography & citation creator (you are responsible for double-checking accuracy)