Pacifism and Peaceful Resistance | Reference eReviews, April 15, 2018

WHAT BETTER WAY to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I (July 28, 1914–November 11, 1918) than to provide reviews of resources on pacifism—the flip side of armed conflict. The databases evaluated here run the gamut, from topics of peace and nonviolence to material on conscientious objection, nonaggression, and peaceful resistance.
What better way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I (July 28, 1914–November 11, 1918) than to provide reviews of resources on pacifism—the flip side of armed conflict. The databases evaluated here run the gamut, from one that primarily focuses on peace and nonviolence, EBSCO’s Peace Research Abstracts, to those that incorporate material on conscientious objection, nonaggression, and peaceful resistance, such as Mass Observation Online (Adam Matthew Digital), World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society (ABC-CLIO), and U.S. Declassified Documents (Gale). Comprising these research tools are diaries of protestors, policy documents at the highest level, and seminal journal articles that offer a range of perspectives. Complementing the primary and secondary data are a variety of tools and features for accessing and organizing that information. Although the volume of research on war far outpaces that on pacifism, these offerings more than make up in quality what may be lacking in quantity.

Mass Observation Online Adam Matthew Digital;

Free trial available

CONTENT This resource makes available original manuscripts, typescript papers, and photographs created and collected by Mass Observation, a pioneering social research initiative founded in 1937 by anthropologist Tom Harrisson, filmmaker Humphrey Jennings, and poet Charles Madge. With the aim of creating an “anthropology of ourselves,” they recruited a team of observers and a panel of volunteer writers to capture the experiences, thoughts, and opinions of “everyday” working-class people in 20th-century Great Britain. The bulk of the Mass Observation Project was carried out from 1937 until the mid-1950s.

Essential to the project were open questionnaires, known as directives, sent to selected observers for the purpose of recording data. Although most of the recipients answered the questions, they were not required to do so, nor were they obligated to follow the formatting of the questions in their responses. Replies were produced in a number of ways, including stories, memoirs, lists, letters, diagrams, drawings, maps, diaries, photographs, press cuttings, and confessions.

The database collects items by investigators and information submitted by volunteers. Material from investigators includes thematic studies, surveys, ephemera, accounts of overheard conversations, and covert observations of the general public. The content submitted by volunteers includes personal accounts of individual lives, provided by the amateur observers from the Mass Observation’s National Panel. This raw data was summarized in file reports or, in a few cases, official publications. The varying documents collected by the Mass Organization were intended to be used in conjunction with one another.

The database is organized into eight modules: “diaries,” “day surveys,” “directive respondents,” “directive questionnaires,” “topic collections,” “publications,” “file reports,” and the “Worktown collection”—arguably the finest record of working-class life in interwar England. Enhancing the basic modules are an interactive map that plots the locations of all diarists, a chronology searchable by eight general categories (media, politics, etc.), photographs, online exhibitions, essays by scholars describing the archive and suggesting research and teaching strategies, occasional papers, links to related resources, and more.

Formats other than diaries, surveys, questionnaires, and directive replies include memoirs, lists, file reports, books, pamphlets, and workbooks. All of the material is full-text searchable.

USABILITY Functionality is smooth and user-friendly. The basic search box appears in the upper-right corner of the homepage. Located below this box are advanced and popular search options. Advanced search lets users enter up to five Boolean keyword queries at once and restrict results to images or secondary resources or by document date and type. A list of popular searches is available, grouped by keywords, events, places, people, and organizations.

Results for popular searches can be filtered by “day surveys,” “topic collections,” “diaries,” “publications,” “file reports,” “secondary resources,” “directive questionnaires,” “directive respondents,” “Worktown collection,” and “Worktown photos.”

Selecting the term Dunkirk in “events” under “popular searches” results in 212 entries. Filtering by “diaries” reduced that number to 46. These fascinating accounts offer users a glimpse of wartime challenges and concerns.

Also located on the homepage are six additional search options: an introduction on the nature, scope, and background of the database; a link to explore the eight basic modules; a chronology; an interactive map, visual resources, and further resources. The “help” tab provides a page-by-page guide, an FAQ, teaching aids, the privacy policy, terms of use, and a point of contact. Documents can be downloaded as PDFs and enlarged.

PRICING Cost is based on FTE, purchase history, and Carnegie Classification; a typical onetime purchase with nominal hosting fee (0.5 percent of purchase price) applies.

VERDICT Mass Observation Online is an essential reference work and a treasure trove of primary source material on 20th-century British life during the World War II and postwar eras. It is distinguished by not only its incredible content but also seamless search function and meticulous organization. Social historians, military historians, and sociologists will find it invaluable.

Peace Research Abstracts EBSCO;

Free trial available

CONTENT This bibliographic database of peace and conflict resolution research indexes thousands of journal articles and other sources covering topics such as nonviolence, war, international affairs, and peace psychology, with more than 360,000 records from 865 different sources: academic journals, magazines, government documents, newspapers, books, essays, trade publications, dissertations, and conference proceedings. Approximately half of the database’s content comes from scholarly peer-reviewed journals. More than 300 titles are active, including the two most reputable and well-known publications in the field: the Journal of Peace Research and the Journal of Conflict Resolution. Coverage, dating back to 1957, is both national and international. Updates are weekly.

There are three types of coverage for the included records: core, priority, and selective. Core offers sources that are indexed and abstracted in their entirety; priority features those with a substantial volume of materials relevant to the field; and selective sources present an occasional volume of material relevant to the field.

USABILITY Anyone familiar with EBSCOhost databases will feel at home navigating Peace Research Abstracts. Users have three options: basic search, advanced search, and search history. On the basic search page, a single box allows users to enter words or terms to find books, journals, and more. A list of search modes and expanders defaults to “Boolean/phrase”; users can apply related words and equivalent subjects to their basic search. Queries can be limited by publication date, publication type, publication title, and number of pages. Searches can also be restricted to scholarly peer-reviewed journals and linked to full text.

Advanced searching includes all these features and also permits users to narrow inquiries by title, author, ISBN, and geographic terms. Users can select their document type—either abstract or article.

They can also search by “cited reference,” “image,” or “indexes,” all listed at the top of the page. Image types include black-and-white photographs, color photographs, graphs, maps, charts, diagrams, and illustrations. An image search for “peace movement,” narrowed to black-and-white photographs, retrieved ten images. All search options have multiple filters for improving search results; a long list of filters appears on the left side of the results screen.

An article level search for the term pacifism in basic search mode returned 9,003 records. Narrowing the search to scholarly peer-reviewed journals from 2010 to the present resulted in 46 records—39 academic journal articles and seven book reviews. Clicking on the link for the article “Thomas Aquinas Between Just War and Pacifism” in the Journal of Religious Ethics retrieved an abstract with bibliographic information such as author, publication, subject headings, and keywords, with an option to open a PDF full-text version (which can be printed, downloaded, cited, shared, or added to a folder).

An added feature for each citation is PlumX Metrics, a service that indicates usage for both full-text and abstract views, linkouts, export saves, mentions, and citations.

A “help” option is located at the upper-right of all pages, but patrons probably will not need it, as the database is intuitive, with filters and finding aids that are easy to locate and use.

PRICING Peace Abstracts is available as a onetime purchase of perpetual access with an annual hosting fee or as an annual subscription. Cost ranges from $2,000 to $3,500 and is based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to FTE, existing EBSCO databases, consortium agreements, and/or buying groups. Pricing applies to a single institution, and ranges for consortia and online institutions may vary. Fees are subject to change based on royalty requirements and other considerations.

VERDICT Although the primary intended audience for this database are academics, anyone with an interest in peace research since the 1950s and its related topics will find this essential. The availability of abstracts, citations, and full text and the numerous ways to filter searches and retrieve data make for a winning combination.

U.S. Declassified Documents Online Gale;

CONTENT U.S. Declassified Documents Online is a full-text database of previously classified documents that have been declassified by the federal government. The database covers major international events and offers material in the fields of history, political science, international relations, American studies, U.S. foreign and domestic policy studies, journalism, and more. Documents from sources such as the FBI, CIA, Justice Department, State Department, National Security Agency, and White House are included.

The database contains more than 700,000 pages with full-text images, although some text is blacked out by the issuing agency for security reasons. Emphasis is largely on post–World War II to the early 1990s, with some documents dating back to the early decades of the 20th century and extending into the 21st century. The database is updated annually.

Documents available for review include cabinet meeting minutes; CIA intelligence studies and reports; correspondence; diary entries; FBI surveillance and intelligence correspondence and memoranda; the full texts of letters, instructions, and cables sent and received by U.S. diplomatic personnel, Joint Chiefs papers, National Security Council policy statements, presidential conferences, State Department political analysis; and White House Confidential file materials.

The collection illuminates, from many perspectives, such events and developments as the recognition of the economic and strategic importance of the Middle East, the Cold War and Soviet expansionism, the problem of refugees and displaced persons, the various faces and responses to the end of colonialism in Africa, the economic and social stratification of Latin America, the “miracle” of western Europe following the devastation and economic collapse of the immediate postwar period, and the application of “domino theory” in Asia.

USABILITY The search-and-discovery interface allows researchers to locate the full text of documents and quickly filter results by characteristics such as document type, publication date, classification level, and date declassified.

The opening screen has a basic search box with an advanced search link underneath it. Search results can be viewed on a graph to see trends over time for one or more terms. Users can also create an account to save documents and tags. Searching in more than 30 other languages is enabled, and a “help” option is included in the “tools” section on the right-hand top corner of every page. U.S. Declassified Documents is searchable by keyword, subject, the entire document, document title, and document number. Searches can be limited by publication date, declassified date, classification level, sanitization, completeness, and source library.

A basic search for the term conscientious objector yielded five entries: three memos, one letter, and one report, with the search term highlighted in green in each document. A broader search for the keyword “election” found 1,484 results. Narrowing the search to items with a publication date after January 1, 2010, yielded only three entries.

An unusual feature is the “term cluster,” a visual way of connecting other topics to the main search terms. The word election, for example, is linked to political parties, election law, presidential elections, and a number of subterms.

Articles can be bookmarked, downloaded, printed, emailed, and shared. Users can also listen to entries as they are read. Citations for APA, Chicago, and MLA are included. Libraries with access to other Gale Primary Sources will be able to conduct cross-searches and retrieve related results from those online products.

PRICING Fees start at $4,500 and are based on an institution’s FTE and other institutional variables; public library pricing is determined by population served. Bundle discounts are granted for institutions making multicollection purchases, and an annual supplement is available, adding a new set of documents to the archive each year.

VERDICT The declassification of government documents can be slow and unpredictable, but U.S. Declassified Documents provides access to available materials in a quick and organized manner. As the most comprehensive compilation of declassified documents of the U.S. executive branch, it is an important resource for researchers of American security and policy. The numerous search options, quality organization, and enhanced features add to its value.

World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society ABC-CLIO;

Free trial available

CONTENT Exploring military conflicts that have defined global history from antiquity to today, this resource encourages study and research beyond isolated events to identify causal relationships, chart historical developments, and analyze the role conflict plays in society. Highlights include complete overviews of roughly 50 wars, with time lines; causes and consequences; portraits of opponents; links to supporting facts, figures, and primary sources; and audiovisual content.

The database consists of approximately 10,000 authoritative reference entries, including biographies and examinations of key places, events, concepts, movements, artifacts, and organizations; 180 journal articles from leading academics addressing complex questions about causes and effects of specific conflicts; and more than 10,000 primary sources, including photos, maps, personal accounts, and video and audio clips for analysis or enhancing lectures. Data are organized into 13 broad categories, starting with ancient Greece and the Peloponnesian War and running up to the Iraq War. Contributors are military historians and scholars in the field.

Content quality is maintained and vetted by an expert advisory board of educators and historians. As a result, users are exposed to scholarly argumentation on a number of controversial topics in global military history.

USABILITY Front and center on the home­page are three viewpoints responding to a question. For example, the question posed at the time of review was, “Would France and Great Britain have been better served to go to war with Germany in 1938?” The responses were yes, no, and maybe, followed by learned defenses of each perspective.

In the upper-right corner of the home­page, a simple search box allows users to enter keywords or terms. The advanced search option (located directly underneath the basic search box) lets users limit inquiries by type of material (documents, media, etc.), the database’s 13 main topics (ancient Rome, medieval Europe, etc.), or region. A “search tip” link offers suggestions. The 13 main categories are listed on the left side of the homepage; clicking on each category yields specific wars. For each conflict, users will find information on causes, opponents, and consequences; journal articles; a reference library of general resources, audiovisual materials, and important documents of the time; and a library of additional resources.

From any page, users can enter a new term, complete an advanced search, or return to the homepage by clicking on the heading at the top of the page. If a new term is entered into the search box, the reference library and topic center for that term come up.

The topic American Civil War lists 31 reference articles, 20 biographies, 12 photos and illustrations, eight political cartoons and posters, seven maps, nine speeches, six letters and narratives, and 2,607 additional resources of primary materials—a staggering amount of material. Journal articles titled “Slavery and the Civil War” and “Confederate Defeat” also displayed. Extended bibliographies accompany all viewpoint entries. Users also have the option to listen to retrieved articles, which can be translated into 12 languages.

PRICING Cost varies according to type of institution but is based on FTE. Pricing starts at an annual fee of $479.

VERDICT Students will need to look no further than World at War when beginning their research on conflict over the past 2,000 years. Ease of use, authoritative content, and well-balanced writing are just some of its defining characteristics. This product is not fancy, just sensible and straightforward, with a thoughtful design that makes searching quick and effortless. Equally important, users will discover hundreds and sometimes thousands of additional primary source materials for their research and writing.


American Civil Liberties Union Papers, 1912–1990 Gale Cengage Learning;

Free trial available

For more than 100 years, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been one of the principal defenders of citizens asserting their rights against federal, state, and local governments. Scholars opine that modern constitutional law has been shaped in great part by the ACLU, with the organization involved in many of the 20th century’s landmark cases.

This collection of ACLU papers spans most of the 20th century, from 1912 to 1990, and complements modules in several other Gale databases: the Making of Modern Law series including Legal Treatises, 1800–1926; U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832–1978; Primary Sources, 1763–1970; and the archives U.S. Declassified Documents Online, and Associated Press Collections Online.

The database contains more than two million pages of bills, briefs, correspondence, court documents, legal case files, memoranda, minutes, newspaper clippings, reports, scrapbooks, and telegrams. Features include textual analysis tools, subject indexing, Zotero capability, personalized accounts, image viewing, downloadable OCR (optical character recognition), and stand-alone and cross-search capabilities. An exceptional feature produces highlighted search terms on retrieved documents, making them easy to pinpoint and isolate. Subjects covered include black studies, African American studies, gender and women’s studies, LGBTQ studies, humanities and social sciences, law and legal studies, government, political science and diplomatic studies, and U.S. history.

Law and humanities libraries serving scholars and students in 20th-century U.S. social history and politics will find this archive of special interest because of its focus on civil rights, civil liberties, race, gender, and issues relating to the U.S. Supreme Court.

International Herald Tribune, 1887–2013

Gale Cengage Learning;

Free trial available

This database delivers the full run of this internationally focused daily paper, from its first issue in 1887 to 2013. The publication was originally produced as the European edition of the New York Herald, which closed down in 1966; in 1967, the paper changed its name to the International Herald Tribune. Nowadays, it is marketed as the international edition of the New York Times, renamed the International New York Times in 2013.

Renowned as one of the world’s most innovative newspapers of global news and a viable alternative to the Anglo-American press, the publication is acclaimed for its objective coverage and has a long history of contributions from other cultures, with a current readership in more than 160 countries and territories.

The database contains six million items, presenting more than 500,000 pages of text consisting of articles, advertisements, and market listings—shown both individually and in the context of the full page and issue of the day. In addition to U.S. history, other subjects covered include Asian, African, European, Russian, and Middle Eastern studies.

Users can search by keyword, subject, author, title, document number, issue number, day of the week, or start page. They can also limit searches by publication date, publication title, publication section, document type, and illustrated works. Reflecting its international heritage, the database can be accessed in 34 different languages. Libraries with access to other Gale Primary Sources will be able to conduct cross-searches and view related results from those online products.

The Left Index EBSCO;

Free trial available

The Left Index is a “guide to the diverse literature of the left, with an emphasis on political, economic, social, and culturally engaged scholarship inside and outside academia.” It further highlights significant but little-known sources of news and ideas. The database contains more than 507,000 citations and abstracts and some full-text documents, dating back to the early 20th century with some content from between the 17th and 19th centuries. These include historically significant early left-leaning publications such as the People and the Class Struggle as well as classic texts by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and Friedrich Engels. In most cases, records citing a book review also offer full bibliographic details, including most recent edition ISBNs. Updates are added weekly.

Among the topics covered are wars, the labor movement, ecology and the environment, race and ethnicity, social and cultural theory, sociology, sexuality, art and aesthetics, philosophy, history, education, law, and globalization.

Selections are culled from academic journals, books, book reviews, theses, dissertations, bulletins, newsletters, Internet documents, and numerous other sources. The preponderance of entries are from peer-reviewed academic journals.

Content-wise, Left Index is unusual, although there is some overlap with EBSCO’s Political Science Complete. It is also an excellent companion to EBSCO’s Peace Research Abstracts. Search options and features are similar to other EBSCOHost databases. Searchers have three options: basic search, advanced search, and search history. Advanced searching provides users the options to apply Boolean/phrase search modes or to search by document type, publication type, publication name, and publication date. Searches in languages other than English are available, as is an extensive help portal.

ProQuest Congressional Publications


Free trial available

ProQuest Congressional Publications provides comprehensive access to U.S. government legislative and regulatory information, containing Committee Prints, House and Senate Reports, House and Senate Documents, Congressional hearings, legislative histories, bill and laws, regulations, the Congressional Record, the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Register, the United States Code, and related materials such as transcripts of unpublished hearings, bill tracking information, data on Congressional committees, individual member activities and voting records, and political news. Links to a variety of other sources about Congress are also included.

Among the great number of topics that can be found are scientific undertakings, historical events, social welfare, economic conditions, and communication policies—just about any subject dealing with U.S. life and public policy is represented in this collection.

Coverage varies by publication, with dates ranging from 1789 to the present. Likewise, types of coverage and update schedules vary by material and publication.

There are myriad ways to search this database. Basic searching is by keyword and can be limited by date and terms. Topical subject areas are congressional publications, members and committees, regulations, news and social media, and “Congress in context.” Multiple search alternatives are available on a topic.

Many of the publications in this collection are available in either print or microfiche as distributed through the U.S. Government’s Federal Depository Library Program. Several are accessible online via or However, ProQuest’s Congressional Publications works well for the end user because it offers one-stop searching and a single interface for accessing the enormous amount of data produced by the federal legislative branch.

Rob Tench is a Librarian at Old Dominion University Libraries, Norfolk, VA

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