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Film Studies Research Guide: History and/of Film

A guide to conducting research in Film Studies at Yale University, including key resources and crucial search strategies.

History and/of Film

What's Here

Films can be about history, films have a history, films affect history, and history affects films. This page give pointers to finding resources on each of these.

  • Find books in Orbis
  • Find articles
  • Selected reference sources

To find resources on the history of the US and other countries, see the list of History Subject Guides.


Find Books on History and/of Film

Here are some examples of subject headings that you can use to search Orbis:

See the appropriate history subject guides for help in finding subject headings about a country's history.


Find Articles

For articles about history in movies or the history of film, refer to the Articles page.


But you should also check the history databases, since historians study the role of films in history as well as how history is represented in films -- and their articles may appear in journals that the film databases don't cover.


Here are the two key history databases.  Be sure to check the History Subject Guides for more comprehensive lists of resources.


America: History & Life

America: History and Life covers the history of the United States and Canada from prehistory to the present. To find articles on movies, use the Subject heading Films.


Historical Abstracts

Historical Abstracts covers history of the world from 1450 to the present (excluding the United States and Canada). To find articles on movies, use the Subject heading Films.

Selected Reference Sources


Cinema year by year, 1894-2003. Ed. Robyn Karney. London; New York: DK Publishing, 2003.

SML Reference, PN1993.5 A1 C56 2003 (LC)+

The Columbia companion to American history on film. Ed. Peter C. Rollins. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

SML Reference, PN1995.9 U64 C65 2003

A companion to early cinema. Ed.  AndreĢ Gaudreault, Nicolas Dulac and Santiago Hidalgo. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

SML PN1994 .C584X 2012

Encyclopedia of early cinema. Ed. Richard Abel. London; New York: Routledge, 2005.

SML Reference, PN1993.45 .E53X 2005

Media History Digital Library

Includes scans of Variety (1918-1920), the New York Clipper (1903-1920), Moving Picture World (1907-1919), Moving Picture Weekly (1916-1918) , and other early industry magazines.

The Routledge companion to film history. Ed. by William Guynn. London; New York: Routledge, 2011.

Bass Stacks, PN1994 .R5735X 2011

Director, Film Study Center