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There are several good reference resources for background information in history and the history of Christianity.
Research guides and bibliographies will direct you to important resources for your topic. Some of the guides listed here are focused on history in general, but others are focused on specific topics within the study of Christian history.
Dictionaries and encyclopedias are also helpful, especially for providing an overview of a topic. These may also provide brief bibliographies with further resources that may be helpful for your research. There are both general dictionaries and encyclopedias of Christian history, as well as works devoted to more specific topics within the field.
This is the third revision of a vast one-volume dictionary that first appeared in 1957. It is considered a classic reference work by nearly all who have reviewed it. Its range of coverage is enormous and over 500 scholars are contributors to this volume. The arrangement is alphabetical by topic, with cross-references indicated by an asterisk. Bibliographies accompany each entry. However, the entries are not signed, and while a list of contributors is provided which indicates their institutional affiliation, there is no indication in this list of the entries for which each contributor is responsible. The enormous scope makes it an essential reference work for the theological library, and critics have praised it for its generally even-handed treatment of a wide range of topics.
This is a one-volume biographical dictionary. Entries tend to be brief (a single paragraph for many of the entries). The strength of the volume, however, is its comprehensiveness: it covers significant persons from all Christian traditions and is not limited either to theologians or ecclesiastical figures. More than 6,500 biographies are provided. The arrangement is alphabetical by name. A list of contributors is provided, but unfortunately, the entries are not signed and there is no indication from the list of contributors which entries each contributor is responsible for. Also, although there is a list of reference works that “were regularly used, by the editor or by contributors, in the production of this text” there are no bibliographies provided with each entry. There are two indexes provided: an Index of Dates of Death, and an Index of Places of Death.