European and Commonwealth History


The library seeks to support research in and teaching of the history of Western Europe as well as of Great Britain and the Commonwealth nations and also of science, medicine, and technology.  Support at the research level covers all periods–ancient, medieval, early modern and modern. Yale’s traditionally excellent collections support the needs of undergraduates, MA and Ph.D. students, the teaching faculty, post-docs, and other research affiliates.

In recent decades new research interests and courses of study have included history of science, war and society, new regions (Eastern and Central Europe, the Middle East, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Atlantic), the history of empires, colonies and their afterlives, women’s and gender studies, gay and lesbian studies. These have all altered the field and expanded both the range of literature and the breadth of traditional subject areas without always supplanting more traditional research.

Special subject strengths include medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation history for all countries; diplomatic history; the French Revolution; nineteenth and twentieth century German history; other areas of Europe such as Scandinavia, Spain, and Switzerland are less emphasized. Major collection strengths include one of the best British collections in the U.S. and one of the top Canadian collections; collecting is more selective for Australia and New Zealand. The resources for regional history, particularly the publications of British regional societies, are impressive. In the past decade there has been increased emphasis on Portugal and Lusophone history. 

Departments/disciplines/programs/subject areas supported

The European and Commonwealth history collections reflect the interests of the following departments and programs:

  • Department of History
  • Program in Medieval Studies
  • Program of Film and Media Studies
  • Program of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Renaissance Studies Program

Because European and Commonwealth history has cross-disciplinary implications, these collections also offer support for research and teaching in other Western European language and literature departments (e.g., English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, German) as well as area studies such as African Studies.

Formats collected


  • Academic and trade press monographs are acquired in print or electronic formats.
  • Maps and textbooks are generally excluded unless requested by faculty.


  • Online-only subscriptions are preferred; print subscriptions are initiated or continued when an online edition is not available, not stable, or not adequate.

Reference materials

  • Electronic reference materials, including indexing and abstracting databases, dictionaries, and encyclopedias, are almost always preferred to their print counterparts. Print reference materials are acquired when an online version is not available, not stable, or not adequate.

Audiovisual materials

  • DVDs are acquired very selectively, primarily in response to faculty demand.


  • Yale’s extensive microform holdings are a vast trove of primary sources supporting the study of European history. Included are manuscripts, government documents, diplomatic documents, official and private archives, and newspapers. However, due to the increasing conversion of microform collections to digital formats and the interlibrary loan availability of microform sets from the Center for Research Libraries, microform supporting European and Commonwealth history is now acquired on demand only.

Languages collected

English and Western European languages are collected extensively where appropriate to the topic (e.g., French History in French) and more selectively otherwise (e.g., German history in Italian). Non-Western European languages are for the most part excluded.

Chronological and geographical focus

Current materials are emphasized, with out of print materials purchased to replace damaged or lost copies of significant works, or in response to faculty or student requests.

In terms of time periods covered in the materials themselves, the collections run the gamut from medieval to contemporary.

Collected extensively: North American and Western European materials on the history of Europe, Slavic and Eastern Europe; colonial history of East Asia, South and Southeast Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. European research-level works on North America are also collected.

Collaborations within Yale

  • The International Collections all acquire material in European and Commonwealth history for their respective regions: African Collection, East Asia Collection, Judaica Collection, Latin America Collection, Near East Collection, Slavic and East European Collection, Southeast Asia Collection, and the South Asia Collection.
  • Collaboration within HCRE (Humanities Collections and Research Education) purchases, especially databases of wide interest to humanists including historical newspapers, pamphlets, scholarly editions, and journals.
  • Occasional collaboration with the Music Library, Divinity Library, Center for British Art, or the Law Library in purchases of or subscriptions to databases of mutual interest.
  • Bass Library 

Subject Librarian

Michael Printy
Librarian for Western European Humanities
Humanities Collections
Department of Area Studies and Humanities Research Support (DASHRS)
(203) 436-9215