The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

September 26, 2008

Review: ‘Salem History’ offers online database of historical documents

A couple of months ago I introduced you to a great bargain, “Salem Health.” We bought the book set and received access to the online database for free. Well, Salem Press has done it again. We purchased the four-volume set “Milestone Documents in American History” and now have access to the electronic version, “Salem History,” from both home and in the library.

“Salem History” contains 134 documents that shaped American history. Each of the primary source documents are full text with expert analysis and commentary for each document. The database provides a variety of ways to search. You can search the full text, title, abstract or keywords and results will vary depending on how you search.

A full text search on the words “declaration of independence” results in not only the Declaration of Independence but also the Emancipation Proclamation, the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech and many others. By contrast, the same search in the title field brings up just the Declaration of Independence and its document analysis. If you don’t find what you want, the advanced search option helps you to structure your search for better results.

If you would rather search by a subject or category, choose the “Browse” tab. There are 25 categories to choose from and each category has subcategories to further narrow your search. Choosing the category “Social Issues, Reform” lets you choose “Elections, Voting” and you get the Fifteenth Amendment, the Nineteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act.

When you open a document, such as the “Nineteenth Amendment Document Analysis,” you can view the title page of the document provided by the National Archives and Records Administration. The analysis gives a brief overview of women’s suffrage and the passage of the amendment, the context of the amendment, a biography of the author, an explanation and analysis of the document, the audience for the document and its impact. A timeline, questions for further study, related documents (with hot links for Web sites), a bibliography and related Web sites are also included.

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