History and Literature

The History and Literature concentration joins what are probably the two largest fields of research at Houghton Library. As a result, it is easy to integrate historical and literary research in the library, which includes material from all of the regions and time periods covered by the concentration. Below, they have been color-coded to help students to find the items that fit their subfield of interest. History and Literature is composed of three temporal subfields—the Medieval World, the Early Modern World (1300-1800), and the Modern World (c. 1750 forward)—and three regional subfields—American Studies, Latin American Studies, and European Studies.

At Houghton, students can find contemporary French newspaper articles about the Dreyfus Affair (MS Am 2638 [49], 011724159 • •), which include some of Émile Zola’s passionate defenses of the wronged Jewish officer, as well as Zola’s own correspondence about the event (MS Judaica 1.4, 009088628 • •). They can also find Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield’s original serial issues (21463.17.6*, 008770032 • •), through which students can study Victorian literature and popular culture. Students interested in the medieval world have access to L’Italie Mystique (Ital 240.1.3, 000755583 • •), an 1899 “history of the religious renaissance during the Middle Ages” that previously belonged to William James. Another fascinating collection is the “My Life in Germany” contest papers (MS Ger 91, 000602078 • •), an effort to gather personal experiences from everyday life under the Nazi régime. A hybrid of personal narrative and historical primary source, it is History and Literature material par excellence.

On the topic of accounts, Houghton is laden with works concerned with perspective, which can be of great use to someone exploring the transmission of information and its inherent historical and cultural biases. Some of the most significant examples of accounts are Human Bullets: A Soldier’s Story of Port Arthur (Ch 151.36.2*, 005828500 •), a Japanese soldier’s account of that key episode during the Russo-Japanese War; Ancient Accounts of India and China, by Two Mohammedan Travelers (Ch 181.6*, 003855270 •), a fascinating ninth-century tract displaying one non-Western civilization’s view on another; and Itinerario da Terra Santa, e suas particularidades (Asia 1417.32, 004039016 • •), a Portuguese account of the Holy Land.

Some of the collection’s most illustrious highlights also include Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience papers and Walden’s journal fragments (MS Am 278.5 [14, 16], 009065351 • •); one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s journals with literary and historical elements (MS Am 1280H [98], 008290191 • •); the papers of Li Dazhao (MS Chinese 8, 009202331 •), one of the founders of the Communist Party of China; a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle (WKR 10.2.7, 001527048 • •); and, of course, Shakespeare’s First Folio (HEW 7.11.1 F, 003723123 • •).

Houghton’s large theater collection can also be a jumping point for research work in History and Literature. Comparing American plays about France such as Female Patriotism, or The Death of Joan D’Arc (DAL 991.5.13*, 002311362 • • • • •), Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Dramatic History (DAL 1755.4.40B*, 005272258 • • • • •), and Emancipation of Europe, or, The Downfall of Bonaparte (DAL 1763.4.35*, 005741841 • • •) with French literature on the same subjects and with the actual historical events depicted can provide insights into literary history and cultural trends on both sides of the Atlantic. Similar to that are plays such as Augustin Daly’s arrangement of Shakespeare’s Henry IV (DAL 1117.7.35*, 003773965 • • •) and Choruses of Caliban: A Shakespeare Masque (DAL 2419.3.70.7, 005428367 • • • •), both of which are departures from their original inspirations and can be analyzed and contrasted with them literarily and historically.

Though the Medieval World and the Latin American Studies subfields are not overly present in the sample items described above, Houghton houses plenty of materials related to both subjects. Students interested in the Medieval World track of the concentration can find a variety of materials elsewhere in this guide that will be of interest to them; particular concentrations to look for include the Classics, Religion, Romance Languages and Literatures, and Slavic Languages and Literatures. Students focusing on Latin American Studies are encouraged to read about the Romance Languages and Literatures concentration in this guide, which includes some materials related to both Portuguese and Spanish literature and colonial history in the region. Furthermore, Early Modern enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that Houghton is the home of the Donald & Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Johnson and Early Modern Books and Manuscripts, a huge compendium of material from eighteenth-century England.