History has been a longstanding collecting focus of the University of Delaware Library and Special Collections houses strong collections on all aspects of this topic. History encompasses the broadest range of subjects and is perhaps the most multi-faceted of any scholarly discipline and the University of Delaware Library’s holdings in history reflect this diversity. All aspects and periods of world history are represented in the collection; however, Special Collections’s holdings are particularly strong in British, European, and American history from the sixteenth century to the present. Although the Library’s comprehensive Delaware Collection is described separately, Delaware’s historic status as the First State helped stimulate the growth of a collection of rare book and manuscript materials which document the colonial period and the early decades of the Republic. Special Collections’s holdings for the Civil War period are also strong and late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century strengths include a growing collection of United States Congressional papers and the papers of the diplomat George S. Messersmith, whose distinguished career spanned more than four decades.
Special Collections houses a strong collection on French history, politics, and culture, including nearly one thousand French Revolutionary pamphlets and a superb collection of “Mazarinades,” the prose and verse tracts issued against the seventeenth-century French clergyman and politician, Cardinal Jules Mazarin. The Frank W. Tober Collection also includes a significant collection of material relating to the French Revolution and to Napoleon. Other subject collections of note include travel and exploration, leisure and recreation, material culture, and worlds fairs and expositions. A collection of more than two thousand trade catalogs documents the commercial history of the United States and offers students and scholars opportunities for research in a vast array of topics. A significant collection of trade cards, sample books, advertising posters, and other ephemeral trade literature is also present. Special Collections also houses collections of historical maps and photographs, which are particularly strong for Delaware and the surrounding region. Major collections on the history of science and technology and the history of horticulture are described separately.
The University of Delaware Library also holds a wealth of manuscript and archival resources in history. In addition to the holdings described in the Delaware Collection, Special Collections holds over two hundred collections of family and business papers which are especially strong for the Philadelphia area. A collection of several hundred diaries, scrapbooks, ships logs, account books, and ledgers maintained by individuals and businesses provides an opportunity for scholars to explore a widely diverse range of primary resources. Special Collections’ manuscript holdings in other areas such as literature, art and architecture, and horticulture also include material of interest for students and scholars engaged in historical research.