World War Two History

General Purpose

This document is intended to aide high school and college students in beginning research papers on World War II. Print and Internet resources are included. Users must keep in mind that the resources listed in this document are recommendations for starting points: the bibliographies of the works mentioned provide a wealth of related information and more in-depth research is necessary to create a balanced and well-researched paper.

Where to Start

There is a great deal of information about the origins, battles, and personal stories of World War II. It is important to begin a search for information by either looking around to find a topic which is interesting or narrowing down a topic already specified. It often helps to think up seach terms, or words that best describe what sort of information you are looking for before you search the Internet or your local library’s catalogue. Some terms and topics of interest include:

  • World War II: World War Two, the Second World War, the Great Patriotic War, World War, 1939-1945.
  • Naval Operations
  • Country names (of combatants, such as England, Germany, Japan, and France)
  • Concentration camps
  • Internment camps
  • Aerial Campaign
  • D-Day, May Day.

It is also important to remember the fundamental differences between primary and secondary source material. Primary sources are original documents written or created that are useful in historical analysis. These may include statistics, diaries, and letters. Secondary source material are books that pull together information from primary sources. Biographies, texts, and non-fiction works fall into this category. Generally, a mixture of primary and secondary source materials are used in research papers at the college level; high school papers tend to focus more on secodary materials.

Additionally, it may prove helpful to interview people who lived during the war, if you have access to them. They can often provide interesting insights into the experience.

IPL Indexed Resources

These links also appear in the IPL Reference section. The reference sources that appear below are valuable because they provide factual information as well as a good starting point for research.

  • Cybrary of the Holocaust

    Supplies historical perspectives, images, personal accounts, and more about the Holocaust.

  • The Nazi Olympics

    ‘”This site presents an on-line version of an exhibition created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. The gallery installation of this exhibit is on display at the Museum between July 1996 and July 1997.” The exhibit contains information about the role of sport in Nazi Germany, the debate around participating in (and thereby endorsing) the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, the games themselves, the treatment of African-American and Jewish athletes, and the aftermath. It contains many photographs and soundfiles.’

  • Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century

    Provides a variety of maps which chart socio-economic trends, systems of government, cities, and wars and massacres throughout the 20th Century. Many of the maps are interactive and go into extensive detail.

  • I*Earn Holocaust/Genocide Project

    Contains bibliographies, student magazine, time lines.

On the Internet

There are a great many sources of information on the Internet; however, it is sometimes difficult to determine the authority, or validity, of the information offered. Most often, historical societies and educational institutions offer accurate, generally unbiased historical fact and interpretation. Some excellent sources are:

Print Resources

Different types of print resources offer a range of sorts of information. Non-fiction books feature a wide variety of fact and thought, as well as interpretation. You will most likely find that materials in an academic library setting such as a University library, will be catalogues according to the Library of Congress classification scheme. In a public or high school library, the Dewey Decimal System tends to be more prevalent. In addition to making sure that your information is accurate by checking several sources or one authoritative source (for instance, information that you may find in the Encyclopaedia Britannica may be of higher quality than that which you would find in Bob’s Personal Page on World War II trivia), you should also pay attention to how the information presented. Sometimes, writers present their viewpoints to the detriment of the historical evidence. Make sure that you try to present balanced information that is relevant to your topic and not full of invective.

Call Numbers

  • LC (Library of Congress Classification):

    D 731-838 World War II
    D 839-850 Post-war history, 1945-
    U 1-900 Military Science (general)
    JZ 5-6422 International relations

  • DDC (Dewey Decimal System):

    940.53 World War II, 1939-1945
    940.54 Military History of World War II

    DDC classifies all World War II materials under General History of Europe (940) regardless of theater. Books pertaining to specific countries’ involvement can sometimes also be found under the number for that country; e.g. 943: Germany.

Recommended Books:

Theory on the origins of World War II:

  • A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War, New York: Atheneum, 1983.
  • Marc Trachtenberg, Reparation in World Politics: France and European economic diplomacy, 1916-1923, Reading: Addison-Wesley, 1995.
  • Marty Bloomberg, World War II and its origins: a select annotated bibliography of books in English, Littleton: Libraries Unlimited, 1975.

About the war experience:

  • John Keegan, The Face of Battle, New York: Penguin Books, 1987.
  • Harrison Evans Salisbury, The 900 Days : The Siege of Leningrad, New York: Da Capo Press, 1985.
  • The Diary of Anne Frank: the critical edition, London: Viking, 1989.
  • Thomas Childers, Wings of Morning: the story of the last American bomber shot down over Germany in World War II

On the Aftermath of World War II

  • Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy, New York: Simon &Schuster, 1994.
  • Walter LaFeber, America, Russian, and the Cold War, 1945-1996, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.
  • Thomas Parrish, The Cold War Encyclopedia, New York: H. Holt, 1996.

Quick Reference

Whether you are looking to verify facts or just starting a research paper, quick references can be valuable resources. Examples:

  • The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1990.
    See the World War II Entry, by Walter McDougall.
  • John Keegan, Who’s Who in World War II, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
  • United States Army in World War II: Reader’s guide, Washington: Center of Military History, U.S. Army (Government Printing Office)
    Note: this is a bibliography.

The documents and resources listed in this document are meant as suggestions that will aide in further research. Do not rely only on the materials you find here as they represent a tiny sampling of what is out there.

This pathfinder was created by Lija Bentley


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