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Historical Fiction

Resources that provide background information about people, places, settings, events and daily life.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Throughout this guide, I refer to Library of Congress (LC) subject headings and subheadings.  Knowing the standard words used for describing books in the library catalog (WorldCat Local) can be VERY helpful.   This knowledge can help you identify particular types of books such as using the term gazetteers for books that contain lists of place names or using the phrase "pictorial works" to find books that are heavily illustrated.

LC Subject Headings 101

The Library of Congress Subject Headings always have a main subject heading and often also include sub-headings, frequently more than one.  All terms are standardized, meaning that if there is more than one way of phrasing a subject, an official term or phrase will be chosen to describe the subject and only that term or phrase will be used.

Subject headings can become quite long, as in the following example:

United States—History—Colonial Period, ca. 1600-1775—Biography—Dictionaries—Juvenile Literature

There are rules that apply to sub-headings as well as subject headings.  Some subject headings can be geographically sub-headed, others not.  Knowing the subject heading and sub-headings gives you more control over finding material that is relevant to your search.

Here are some sub-headings that you may find useful:

Personal Narratives

The following are considered inherently historical and therefore are not further sub-divided by “history”:

Discovery and exploration
Economic conditions
Economic policy
Foreign economic relations
Foreign relations
Historical geography
History, Local
Kings and rulers
Military relations
Politics and government
Social conditions
Social life and customs
Social policy

Combining these sub-headings with a subject heading when searching the library catalog will retrieve any materials that are in the catalog that are that type of material or topic.

Searching: LC Subject Headings in WorldCat Discovery

To search using these terms as subjects in WorldCat Discovery, choose the "Advanced Search".   

In the drop down menu, select "Subject:".  In the text box to the right of that drop down menu box, type your subject term.  You can combine a subject term search with a keyword search by putting your keyword in the second box, and selecting "Keyword:" from the drop down menu. 

Advanced Search page showing subject search

Click search. 

If your first try doesn't retrieve what you had hoped for, try different terms. 

Tip: when viewing a book record in WorldCat Discovery, you will see the subject headings associated with the book listed in the View Description section. Click the pointer to the left of View Description, then scroll down to Subjects.  Sometimes this helps you identify additional terms that are useful for your search.


Browsing: LC Subject Headings in the Boise State Only Catalog

You can also use the Albertsons Library Catalog to scan possible subject headings and sub headings. 

Or go to

Click the link "Basic Search". 

Under the box that says "Search By", scroll to "Keyword within Subject".  Type your subject heading terms in the text box under "Search:" (on the left).  Use one of the subheadings listed above as an example... social conditions, or diaries.  

Screen showing drop down menu for Keyword within Subject search

This results in a list of subject headings that include the term you typed in.  Browse through the list; if a subject heading is of interest, click on it to display the books/ media associated with that subject heading.