Best Historical Materials: 2022

African Voices from the Inquisition, Vol. 1: The Trial of Crispina Peres of Cacheu, Guinea-Bissau (1646-1668). Edited and translated by Toby Green, Philip Havik, and F. Ribeiro da Silva. Oxford: British Academy, Oxford University Press, 2021. 312 pp. $105 hardcover (ISBN: 9780197266762).

Only within the last two decades or so have scholars begun making serious use of Portuguese Inquisition trials of African-born defendants. The richness of the source material, though, is practically unmatched. The trial documents of Crispina Peres stretch over 400 folio pages and document testimony of dozens of witnesses of various backgrounds and who spoke numerous languages. Crispina Peres, the daughter of a Portuguese father and African mother, had been accused of African religious practices. As a baptized Christian, this offense fell under the jurisdiction of the Inquisition and she was tried in Lisbon between 1665 and 1668. Peres defended herself by acknowledging her reliance on healing rituals, but also claiming her upbringing resulted in insufficient knowledge of proper Catholic practice. Crispina Peres was excommunicated and sentenced to an auto de fé on March 11, 1668, in Lisbon, which allowed her to return to Africa later that year.

Although the story of Crispina Peres is interesting in its own right, the trial documents a complex African society connected to both Europe and the Americas. The introduction to the book helps readers better understand the multifaceted religious, social, economic, and political contexts for the trial with both depth and breadth. The transcript itself is reproduced with precision and in as clear a translation as possible. It includes testimonies from men and women, Europeans and Africans, enslaved and free. It reveals social dynamics within the region, the economic role women played there, and also the role of religious syncretism and the gendered interpretation of that syncretism.

The transcript is likely to be most useful for advanced history undergraduate or graduate students. It could provide sufficient source material for many research papers of various types.

Scott Libson, Yale University

Codex Sierra: A Nahuatl-Mixtec Book of Accounts from Colonial Mexico. Written by Kevin Terraciano. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2021. 270 pp. $65 hardcover (ISBN: 9780806168470).

The Codex Sierra is an extraordinary document. Written between 1550 and 1564, only a few decades into Spanish colonial rule in the Americas, it served as a book of accounts for Santa Catalina Texupan, a community in the northwestern part of the modern state of Oaxaca. The 62-page manuscript includes pictographic writing (traditional to the region) on the left side of the page, Nahuatl writing in the center, and numerical accounting on the right, a veritable “Rosetta stone” (3) according to Terraciano, because the text allows for a richer understanding of the pictographs. Since local governance resided largely within the indigenous community, the codex reveals much about indigenous agency during early Spanish colonialism. It also sheds light on the role of the church, the value of goods and services, changes in language usage, social structures, and many other topics.

The book allows readers to approach the codex from many angles. An introduction and topical chapters of nearly one hundred pages provide extensive context and analysis of the codex, discussing the roles of the community, political and religious leadership, the changing systems of writing and language, and the economy. Most of the rest of the book consists of various reproductions of the codex: first a full transcription of the text, then a translation of the text into English, and finally a color copy of the manuscript. An appendix of Spanish loanwords assists readers who are particularly interested in linguistic development.

This volume is not the first to reproduce the Codex Sierra, but it offers several advantages. The 1933 reproduction (reprinted in 1982) included some errors and imprecision. A very good 2016 reproduction translated the codex into Spanish. While Spanish-speakers will make good use of both recent editions, this new English-language edition makes the codex available for use by non-Spanish speakers, advanced undergraduate researchers being a major new audience.

Scott Libson, Yale University

A Companion to American Agricultural History. Edited by R. Douglas Hurt. (Wiley Blackwell Companions to American History.) Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2022. 608 pp. $195 hardcover (ISBN: 9781119632221). $156 e-book (ISBN: 9781119632245).

A Companion to American Agricultural History is an outstanding collection of essays that will aid researchers interested in many different aspects of the agricultural history of the United States. A leader in the field of American agricultural history, R. Douglas Hurt has edited this volume consisting of excellent chapters about various topics related to the country’s agricultural history. Thirty-one specialists have contributed original chapters on diverse topics such as American Indian agriculture, agricultural technology, meatpacking, rural life, and the development of American agricultural policy. Each of these chapters provides a useful introduction to a particular subject in agricultural history, and the chapters together offer a sweeping view of the agricultural history of the United States spanning various regions and time periods. In addition to the bibliographical essays that accompany every chapter, a ninety-eight-page bibliography created by librarian Sara E. Morris enables readers to explore any of the topics in greater detail.

One of the major positive features of this book is the incorporation of recent developments in the humanities and social sciences such as the analysis of race, class, and gender. For example, Part III: Ethnicity and Gender features chapters about African Americans in twentieth century agriculture, gender and agriculture, and migrant labor. Also showing the interdisciplinary nature of the study of American agricultural history, other essays present analysis of the theme of agriculture as it appears in art, literature, music, and film.

This volume will especially benefit undergraduates and others who are beginning to study American agricultural history. However, faculty will also appreciate the wide coverage, individual essays of interest, and the extensive and up-to-date bibliography and bibliographical essays.

Ethan Lindsay, Wichita State University

Fighting Hunger, Dealing with Shortage: Everyday Life Under Occupation in World War II Europe: A Source Edition. Edited by Tatjana Tönsmeyer, Peter Haslinger, Włodzimierz Borodziej, Stefan Martens, and Irina Sherbakova. Boston: Brill, 2021. 2 vols. 1374 pp. $300 hardcover (ISBN: 9789004448247). $300 e-book (ISBN: 9789004461840).

While the Second World War in Europe was a time of horrific bloodshed in both military and genocidal contexts, it was also a massive undertaking of resource extraction by the German occupiers. Under German rule, food, textiles, and other supplies were diverted from civilian supply chains to the Wehrmacht and the German homeland. The experience of war for most Europeans was one of constant deprivation.

This collection of primary sources offers a very thorough selection of materials regarding rationing, speculation, confiscation, and the search for food and medicine substitutes. The sources are almost all from national archives, previously unpublished, and newly translated into English from dozens of languages.

The two-volume set contains 600 documents from 20 countries, translated from 17 languages. Entries include personal letters and diary entries, but also official dicta by governing bodies regarding policies such as rations and quarantines (the limited availability of medicine and sanitary supplies restricted the ability of doctors to treat infectious diseases), internal government reports on food supplies, and published advice on using ersatz goods for tasks such as household cleaning, and court proceedings against defendants accused of fraudulent abuse of ration books. The editors have provided translations that try to reflect the nature of the original documents; that is, quite formal in government documents, and more casual in personal communications. The documents are copiously annotated to provide context about the parties that generated the documents, clarify references to events elsewhere, and note difficulties in the original text such as missing or illegible words.

As the editors write in their introduction, smaller compilations of source material about privation in World War II have been published (usually focused on a single country), but this appears to be the first such compendium that covers the entire continent and draws from such a diverse set of archives. It is likely to be an essential source for those studying the civilian experience of foreign occupation during wartime.

Steven A. Knowlton, Princeton University

Global Press Archive. East View Information Services. Accessed January 8, 2023.

Representing over 80 countries and over 30 languages, the Global Press Archive is an invaluable resource for exploring current and historical international journalism, popularly known as the “first rough draft of history.” This massive archive currently offers over 30 million digitized full-image newspaper pages from 1,600 newspapers covering the 18th century to the present. Originally formed as an initiative of Stanford Libraries and the Hoover Institution Library & Archives, the Global Press Archive continues to expand, most notably via a recent partnership with the Center for Research Libraries (CRL). Key collections include Imperial Russian Newspapers (1782–1917), Southeast Asian Newspapers (1839–1976), Independent and Revolutionary Mexican Newspapers (1807–1929) and Middle Eastern and North African Newspapers (1870–2019). All issues are fully searchable and include not only feature articles, but also other published material including illustrations, advertisements, editorials, and obituaries. The database features an easy-to-use, intuitive interface, and also offers full-screen browsing, clipping and extraction tools, citation generators, and virtual keyboards for languages including Arabic, Turkish, and Russian. While much of the content requires a subscription, the Archive also offers several open access collections from China, Mexico, Russia, Africa, and the Middle East, including selected issues from Pravda, El Caribe, Ethiopian Herald, and La France d’Asie. Open access content is browsable at

Jen Bartlett, University of Kentucky

Mifflin, Werner. Writings of Warner Mifflin: Forgotten Quaker Abolitionist of the Revolutionary Era. Edited by Gary B. Nash and Michael R. McDowell. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2021. 608 pp. $99.95 hardcover (ISBN: 9781644531853). $99.95 e-book (ISBN: 9782644531860).

Nash and McDowell’s Writings of Warner Mifflin: Forgotten Quaker Abolitionist of the Revolutionary Era is the first compilation of Mifflin’s essays, legislative documents, court petitions, letters, legal documents, and manumission deeds from 1766 to 1799. This book complements Nash’s 2017 biography Warner Mifflin: Unflinching Abolitionist. Though Mifflin was a passionate, important anti-slavery advocate of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, his efforts brought both acclaim and condemnation. Unfortunately, Mifflin’s antagonism of wealthy and powerful interests might explain his being “hidden from history” for the past two-hundred years.

Mifflin was an unlikely reformer. His father Daniel Mifflin was a prominent slave holder in Accomack County, Virginia. Following his marriage to Elizabeth Johns, Mifflin, too, became the owner of a plantation in Kent County, Delaware. Both he and Elizabeth owned slaves. Suddenly, in 1775 at age thirty, after surviving several life-threatening illnesses Mifflin re-evaluated his life’s purpose. Fearful of God’s final judgment, Mifflin devoted his remaining two decades to reforming Quaker doctrine, ending slavery, and compensating former slaves.

Writings of Warner Mifflin is a selection of “modernized transcriptions” of various documents that reveal Mifflin’s anti-slavery and Quaker reform efforts. The book also includes Mifflin’s writings on pacifism, human equality, and the conditions of Native Americans. All but a few sources were written by Mifflin. Documents are arranged chronologically in four sections: “Before the Revolution,” “The Revolutionary Years,” “After the Revolution,” and “The Early Republic.”

This source will be very useful for high school and university libraries and public library patrons interested in the nascent anti-slavery movement in the United States.

Nancy Dennis, Salem State University

Muslim Sources of the Crusader Period: An Anthology. Edited and translated, with an introduction, by James E. Lindsay and Suleiman A. Mourad. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2021. $63 hardcover (ISBN: 9781624669965). $21 paperback (ISBN: 9781624669842).

While popular conceptions of the Crusades have focused on warfare between Muslims in the eastern Mediterranean and Western Christendom from 1095 to 1291, these conflicts covered a much wider geographic area over a longer period and involved regional political players as well. Muslim Sources of the Crusader Period expands the traditional Crusades narrative through the collection and analysis of many previously untranslated Muslim sources. The editors’ intent is to present a collection of Muslim sources that highlight “the complexity of the interactions between Franks and Muslims in the broader context of Islamic history,” and the book fulfills this purpose well. Its six chapters organize material by topic: Travel Literature and Geographical Guides; Jihad Books and Juridical Directives; Chronicles, Memoirs and Poetry (the longest section); Biographies; Correspondences, Treaties and Truces; and Inscriptions. Several appendices provide useful cultural context and reference for both readers both familiar and new to the materials, and include an Islamic calendar, Quranic verses on war and peace, a bibliographic overview of sources, and a useful glossary listing dynasties, people, sects, and terms. Further, each selection of texts throughout the book is accompanied by study questions for analysis and discussion. This collection is well suited for use in the classroom as a supplementary text, as well as an introduction and study guide for those who are interested in the topic but lack reading knowledge of Arabic.

Jen Bartlett, University of Kentucky

The Persecution and Murder of the European Jews by Nazi Germany, 1933–1945. Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2019–present. 16 vols. $69.95 per volume hardcover (series ISBN 9783110353594; vol. 1: 9783110435191; vol. 2: 9783110523713; vol. 3: 9783110523744; vol. 4: 9783110687378; vol. 5: 9783110683332; vol. 12: 9783110683325). $69.95 per volume e-book (ISBN vol. 1: 9783110435191; vol. 2 9783110526387; vol. 3: 9783110526363; vol. 4: 9783110687798; vol. 5: 9783110687699; vol. 12: 9783110687736).

While we use the terms “the Holocaust” or “Shoah” as a historical shorthand, they can obscure what really happened—but the title of this collection makes the character of the events explicit. A collaboration between the German Federal Archives, the Institute of Contemporary History Munich-Berlin, Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, and Yad Vashem (the World Holocaust Remembrance Center), it was originally published in German as Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland 1933-1945 in 16 volumes between 2008 and 2018.

The English translation that began in 2019 has produced five volumes so far, with a sixth projected for early 2023. The volumes are organized geographically, with the German Reich (including Austria), Bohemia and Moravia, Poland, and Western and Northern Europe currently available.

The documents included are drawn from a vast array of source types. Of course, government decrees, memoranda, and the like are included to show the evolving approach of the German government to the persecution and murder of its Jewish citizens or subjects. But also included are newspaper accounts and editorials; letters and diaries—from Jews and from members of other ethnicities, showing reactions to events from many perspectives; and internal documents from non-governmental organizations such as businesses that demonstrate how other groups adapted to anti-Jewish policies. Taken together, the documents provide a broad view of the implementation of and reaction to anti-Jewish policies.

Each document is annotated with care, noting pertinent information about its author, the circumstances of its composition, and any unusual references that need explanation. The editors have chosen to organize each volume in strict chronological order, to avoid “oversimplified or teleological interpretation of events”. This has the added benefit of demonstrating that individual understandings of the import of policies and happenings could vary across time, by juxtaposing documents originating in the same period with quite different expressions of interest or concern.

The German edition has already become a widely-cited source in published scholarship, and its able translation into English will make this essential collection accessible to researchers around the world.

Steven A. Knowlton, Princeton University

The Rise of the Mongols: Five Chinese Sources. Edited and translated by Christopher P. Atwood, with Lynn Struve. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 2021. 264 pp. $48 hardcover (ISBN: 9781647920029). $16 paper (ISBN: 9781624669903).

Christopher Atwood’s The Rise of the Mongols: Five Chinese Sources is a seminal work that challenges assumptions about the rise of the Mongol Empire in China from the 12th through 14th centuries. The book presents clear English translations of some of the earliest Chinese observations of the Mongol regime. Prefaces establish the historical and cultural milieux of each chapter. The inclusion of maps, illustrations, glossaries, dynasty genealogies, and tables of Chinese, Mongolian, and Manchurian dynasties provide further context. The book will be very useful to scholars, students, and interested non-academics.

The Rise of the Mongols builds upon 14th century classics like the Persian Compendium of Chronicles and the Mongolian The Secret History of the Mongols: The Origin of Chingis Khan. Unlike these works, however, The Rise tells the story of the Mongol conquest from the perspectives of Chinese generals and public officials. Officials of South China’s Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) authored the first three documents. The last two documents were written by Chinese officials serving Mongol rulers in the time of Qubilai Khan (1260 -1294). These include a biography of the North China reformist official Ila Chucai (1190-1244); and an account of the Chinese official Zhang Dehui’s visit to Qubilai.

Atwood’s careful selection of documents from both North and South Chinese writers adds “a multiplicity of historical viewpoints” to our understanding of the Mongol invasion of China. For the first time, we hear not only Chinese officials’ thoughts about the personalities of various Mongols leaders, but also their views on the Mongols’ impact on everyday life in captured cities.

The Rise of the Mongols is highly recommended for both academic and public libraries and all Mongolian scholars.

Nancy Dennis, Salem State University

Seen/Unseen: Hidden Lives in a Community of Enslaved Georgians. Written and edited by Christopher R. Lawton, Laura E. Nelson, and Randy L. Reid. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 2021. 181 pp. $114.95 hardcover (ISBN: 9780820358970). $29.95 paperback (ISBN: 9780820358977).

Seen/Unseen: Hidden Lives in a Community of Enslaved Georgians focuses on the enslaved people held in bondage by a wealthy and politically connected family in antebellum Georgia. The lives of the enslaved are documented in this source through family correspondence of the owners and include information about their families, health, social activities, and life in the households and plantations. Each chapter begins with a brief overview of the people featured in the chapter to provide context for the primary documents. Following the essay, the fragments of documents are transcribed with footnotes, as needed. With a focus on text related to enslaved people, the primary sources are edited to only include this information. The organization of the book is valuable for working with undergraduate students on how primary sources come together to create a narrative.

This resource is recommended for public and academic libraries.

Jennifer Brannock, The University of Southern Mississippi

To Address You as My Friend: African Americans’ Letters to Abraham Lincoln. Edited by Jonathan W. White. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2021. 280 pp. $29.95 hardcover (ISBN: 9781469665078). $24.99 e-book (ISBN: 9781469665092)

With a wealth of information and publications about Abraham Lincoln, this source is a unique look at correspondence he received from African Americans. At a time when presidents were regularly approached to assist with personal problems, many Americans wrote to Lincoln asking for assistance. To Address You as My Friend focuses on the letters from his Black constituents. Enslaved and free African Americans wrote to Lincoln about the war or asking for assistance, but many also expressed their satisfaction with the Emancipation Proclamation and saw him as an ally.

The chapters in To Address You as My Friend are arranged by themes including “Petitioning for Pardon,” “Protesting Unequal Pay for Black Soldiers,” and “Appealing for Equal Treatment.” Before each transcription, contextual information is provided to place the primary source in context. This valuable information fills in any blanks that the reader may have about the person writing the letter and the subject matter.

This resource is recommended for public and academic libraries.

Jennifer Brannock, The University of Southern Mississippi

Wartime North Africa: A Documentary History, 1934-1950. Edited by Sarah Abrevaya Stein and Aomar Boum. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2022. 384 pp. $90 hardcover (ISBN: 9781503611511). $30 paper (ISBN: 9781503631991).

Wartime North Africa is the first sourcebook in English about the impact of World War II on the peoples and cultures of North Africa. With its inclusion of eighty primary source documents and nineteen illustrations, this book provides many vivid examples of the way the war was experienced on the ground throughout North Africa. It is a compilation of many voices and perspectives on this history, and multiple types of primary source material such as poetry, letters, memoirs, and songs give voice to varied experiences of the war. Editors Stein and Boum have conducted extensive research at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives and include many texts found in those archives. Yet they also include texts from other archives in North Africa, Europe, and Israel. In fact, many of these documents composed originally in the various languages of North Africa are here presented for the first time in English.

The overall chronological arrangement of these documents is convenient for the reader and enables one to see glimpses of life in North Africa from 1934 to 1950. The three major parts of the book each contain sixteen or more primary sources. Part II, “Race Laws, Internment, and Spoliation, 1940-1943" is especially valuable for its multitude of primary sources for such a brief span of history. With these sources we encounter the suffering of Tunisia’s Jews, an Algerian Muslim’s memories of internment camps in Algeria and Morocco, and other accounts, such as one by a wartime correspondent who was also a European refugee in North Africa. The remarkable archival research and the outstanding translation work behind this edited volume have resulted in a very readable and well-organized primary source reader. It will benefit both teaching faculty and student researchers.

Ethan Lindsay, Wichita State University