As history aficionados know, history encompasses far more than dates and boldfaced names. Seeking not only a clear understanding of the sequence and substance of events but also the issues surrounding them, a historian studies the impact of these events on the society of that era along with the legacy of the events today. Indeed, a comprehensive study of history incorporates facets from a wide variety of perspectives and sources in addition to including an expansive range of topics. Therefore, in view of several contemporary American issues with historic precedents, the following five websites feature historical details in five broad categories.

Development of the Modern United States

The Digital Collections site of the New York Public Library offers a treasure trove of materials. Billed as a “living database,” it provides students of history with manuscripts, maps, images, posters and streaming video, all of it categorized by library of origin, collection, and subject heading along with names of the creator and publisher of each item. Designed to facilitate research, the site divides the data into seven broad categories: History and Geography, Culture and Society, Cities and Buildings, Nature and Science, Industry and Technology, Printing and Graphics, and Art and Literature. Each category is further subdivided for more precise location of information, and with everything available for download, graduate students have a library at their fingertips.

First-Person Accounts

While historic events occur on a grand and global scale, their effects are experienced individually, with strikingly different perspectives from one person to the next. Providing approximately 5000 hours of audio recordings gathered over more than 45 years, Studs Terkel: Conversations with America represents interviews with a cross-section of America. Each recounts experiences on topics as varied as race, war and the Great Depression, just to name a few. For graduate students of history, seeking personalized details of historic events, these conversations are an excellent resource.

Effects of Immigration and Diversity

While many people are aware of Ellis Island as a port of entry for tens of thousands of immigrants from the late 1800s through 1954, fewer people are cognizant of the rich history offered by Angel Island. Poetic Waves: Angel Island seeks to alleviate that dearth of information. Spotlighting the plight of Chinese immigrants who arrived in the United States between 1910 and 1940, this sites chronicles their experiences, including confinement on the island for up to two years. The site gives special attention to the angst-filled poetry written by these immigrants on the walls of Angel Island, connecting contemporary graduate students with the history of the United States as witnessed through immigrant eyes.

Historic Role of Religion

Ardent religious beliefs, while deeply cherished, nonetheless have fueled many a war and even divided families, contributing greatly to the role of religion in civilizations throughout history. The Library of Congress’s site, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, traces the history of religion in the United States, beginning with the European religious persecutions that served as the impetus for early settlers in this country to leave Europe and arrive on North American shores. The extent to which religion informed the formation of both local and federal government is covered as well, affording graduate students a wealth of facts surrounding this crucial aspect of history.

Important Trials

The contemporary fascination with notorious trials over the last few decades could easily detract from the significant role trials have played in history. From the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692 and the Amistad Trials, begun in 1839, to the modern-day Nuremberg Trials that followed World War II and the Moussaoui 9/11 Trials in 2006, among many others, pivotal trials have had far-reaching impacts on the world as it was known at the time. With the implications of these trials still being felt today, they are, arguably, deserving of an entire course, making them well worth deeper evaluation by graduate students in history. Famous Trials, a site created by Douglas O. Linder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, offers insights into these and many other important trials.

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Only five among countless other websites that address significant contemporary matters that have historic overtones, these sites, with their combined scope, place various compelling matters in historical context. For graduate students of history, that contextual analysis broadens their perspectives as well as their competency.