POLECON 150: World of Commodities


  • James Church
  • Office Hours: By appointment
  • Office Location: 438 Doe Library
  • Contact Info:

    510 678-7611

Electronic Resource Finder

The most important research section of the library web site is the Library Electronic Resource Finder. This is the library directory of databases and other information resources, organized by subject (e.g. political science) type (e.g. encyclopedias) as well as other categories. It also contains a link to a comprehensive listing of library e-journals.

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Connecting from Off Campus

You can access UCB Library resources from off campus or via your laptop or other mobile device using one of two simple methods:

Proxy Server
After you make a one-time change in your web browser settings, the proxy server will ask you to log in with a CalNet ID or Library PIN when you click on the link to a licensed resource. See the setup instructions, FAQ, and Troubleshooting pages to configure your browser.

VPN (Virtual Private Network)
After you install and run the VPN "client" software on your computer, you can log in with a CalNet ID to establish a secure connection with the campus network.

Catalogs & Search Engines

Find a book that matches your topic and go to the call number range to browse. Check the references and bibliography.

Google Scholar
. Functions as both a key word database for articles and books. It automatically connects to select licensed content held by the UC libraries. 

Google Books. Millions of scanned books worldwide.  Search the text of the books, view previews or "snippets" from books still in copyright, and read the full text of out-of-copyright books.  To read the text of a copyrighted book, use the Find in a Library link to locate the book at UC Berkeley or search OskiCat.

Oskicat. UC Berkeley libraries catalog. Includes records for most UCB library materials, including books, e-books, journal and e-journal titles, films and videos, maps, archival materials, and much more. See also the Quick Guide to Oskicat and Oskicat Tutorial.

. Catalog for all UC Campus libraries, including selected libraries on campus not in Oskicat, e.g. the Boalt Law Library. 

Finding Books on Commodities

The primary tool for finding books on your topic will be Oskicat.  You may also search Google Books to read some of the text before retrieving the item from the shelves by searching Google Books directly and clicking "get this book in print." You can also link to the item in Google Books you are interested in directly from Oskicat in some instances.

If you are not sure it is generally a good idea to start with a keyword search.  Keep your initial search short and simple, then explore.  If you find an item you like click the subject heading to help retrieve specific  books for the commodity, for example the name of the commodity or its associated industies (such as trade or production).  Sometimes these are not what you think, e.g. do not use oil, use "petroleum."

Some sample subject searches include You may also use language limites and date sorting to help you refine your results. Often but not always University Press books are a good place to start.

Sugar trade -- West Indies -- History
Tobacco -- History
Coffee -- History
Coal trade -- Great Britain -- History
United Fruit Company -- History
Slave trade -- Great Britain -- History

Sample Sources

From silver to cocaine: Latin American commodity chains and the building of the world economy 1500-2000. Moffitt HF1040.9.L37 F76 2006. Read at Google Read at Google

The empire of tea: the remarkable history of the plant that took over the world .Bioscience & Natural Resources GT2905. M33 2004. Read at Google Read at Google

Uncommon grounds : the history of coffee and how it transformed our world. Bioscience & Natural Resources TX415 .P46 1999. Read at Google Read at Google

River of dark dreams : slavery and empire in the cotton kingdom. Main (Gardner) Stacks E449 .J695 2013. Read at Google Read at Google

Drink talking: 100 Years of alcohol advertising. Business Library. HF6161.L46 D33 2008. Read at Google Read at Google

Chocolate, women and empire: a social and cultural history. Business Library. HD9200.A2 R63 2009. Read at Google Read at Google

Tobacco in history and culture: an encyclopedia. Main (Gardner) Stacks GT3020.T594 2005. Read at Google Read at Google

Article Databases - History

An 'article database' is a specialized search engine limited to information on a specific subject or information type, such as history, economics, medicine, or sociology.  Many of them have bells and whistles and other value-added. Please also see below additional databases specific to political economy and international studies.

America History and Life. Indexes over 2,000 journals published worldwide on the history of the US and Canada from prehistory to the present. Includes all key English-language historical journals; selected historical journals from major countries, state, and local history journals; and journals in the social sciences and humanities.

Historical Abtracts.  Indexes over 2,000 journals, as well as historical book reviews and dissertations, published worldwide about all aspects of world history (excluding US and Canada) from 1450 to the present.

Eighteenth Century Journals.  Full text of important and often rare journals printed between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries in Great Britain. The collections cover all aspects of British life.

Essay and General Literature Index Retrospective. Indexes essays found in volumes, annuals and serial publications from the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. Focuses on the humanities and social sciences, with coverage of economics, political science, and history.

Humanities International Complete. Indexes thousands of journals, books and other published sources from around the world in the humanities, with full text of over 770 journals. 

Periodicals Archive Online. An online periodical archive that provides access to some 475 digitized journals in the humanities and social sciences. A sister database, Periodicals Index Online, provides additional indexing for articles in over 4,700 periodicals. 

Reader's Guide Retrospective. Covers more than 500 leading American magazines and journals from 1890 to 1982

Victorian Database Online. Indexes over 500 journals, books, and dissertations concerning Victorian Britain (defined as 1830-1914), in every field of nineteenth-century British studies including the British Empire; military and naval history; politics, commerce, and economics; sociology, women's studies, law, and education; science, technology, and medicine; and literature, drama, poetry, prose, and fiction.

Political Economy Databases

EconLit. The most comprehensive index to scholarly journal articles in economics. It also lists books and dissertations, and indexes articles within 'collective works' (books consisting of collections of essays or individual papers). Most citations include a searchable abstract.

IDEAS: Economics and Finance Research
. A free bibliographic database on economics. Offering citations to thousands of full-text working papers, books and book chapters, and articles from peer-reviewed journals.

. Includes over 1000 scholarly journals with access to more than 2 million articles. JSTOR is an archive which means that current issues (generally the most recent 3-5 years) of the journals are not yet available.

. Index to public policy in the areas of economics, politics, the environment, and social issues, taken from reports from a wide range of thinks tanks, Non-governmental organizations, international governmental organizations, and other institutions worldwide.

Proquest Social Sciences. An interdisciplinary metasearch through 22 of the the social sciences indexes on the ProQuest platform. Includes EconLit, International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS), Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts, PAIS, PsycInfo, Sociological Abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts and more.

Web of Science. Indexes over 8,000 of the leading journals in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences, providing searching of footnoted citations. Includes the Arts & Humanities Citation Index, Science Citation Index, and Social Sciences Citation Index.

Worldwide Political Science Abstracts.  Indexes books, journals, and dissertations within the field of political science and related to international relations, law and politics, political economy, public administration, and public policy.

International Studies Databases

Africa-Wide NiPAD. A comprehensive database covering journals, magazines, newspapers, broadcasts, books and more on all aspects of Africa including politics, history, economics, literature, music and natural sciences. Combines the databases previously known as African Studies and South African Studies.

Bibliography of Asian Studies (BAS). Over 500,000 citations to journal articles, books, and conference proceedings worldwide on the countries, histories, and cultures of East, South, and Southeast Asia.

CIAO (Columbia International Affairs Online). Indexes journals, books, policy briefs, working papers, and conference proceedings from research institutes worldwide related to international affairs analysis and advocacy materials. Also includes links to international affairs Internet sources.

Elsevier Geography. Indexes over 2000 journals, monographs, books, conference proceedings, and theses covering the international literature in physical and human geography, as well as international development issues.

Handbook of Latin American Studies. Indexes books, journals and proceedings to create an annual bibliography on Latin America consisting of works selected and annotated by scholars, alternating between focusing on the humanities and the social sciences.

Index Islamicus. Indexes literature on Islam, the Middle East and the Muslim world. Over 3,000 journals are monitored for inclusion in the database, together with conference proceedings, monographs, multi-authored works and book reviews. Journals and books are indexed down to the article and chapter level.

PAIS International. Indexes books, journals, government documents, statistical directories, grey literature, research reports, conference reports, and web sources related to public policy, politics, economics, and social issues worldwide. Includes publications from over 120 countries. Some of the indexed materials are published in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Primary Sources Introduction

Primary sources were either created during the time period being studied or were created at a later date by a participant in the events being studied (as in the case of memoirs).  They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer.  Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period

secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon.  It is generally at least one step removed from the event is often based on primary sources.  Examples include:  scholarly or popular books and articles, reference books, and textbooks.

The library has many databases and digital collections devoted to primary resouces, especially those relating to United States and British history. For a comprehensive listing please see Primary Source Databases (all) including newspaper databases.

Another good strategy is to search in Oskicat by subject and pair an appropriate subject heading with additional subject terms that identify materials as primary sources. Some of these terms include:

The library has created an entire research guide on finding historical primary sources and also has a listing of library archival collections.  

Commodities Primary Sources

Global Commodities: Trade, Exploration and Cultural ExchangeProvides original sources materials to help explore the history of fifteen major commodities and to examine the ways that these have changed the world. The commodities include: chocolate, coffee, cotton, fur, opium, oil, porcelain, silver and gold, spices, sugar, tea, timber, wheat, and wine and spirits.

Archive of Americana. Primary source collections providing references to books, pamphlets, broadsides (Early American Imprints, Series I and Series II), newspapers (Early American Newspapers) and government publications (American State Papers andU.S. Congressional Serial Set).

Confidential Print: Africa, 1834-1966From coastal trading in the early nineteenth century, through the Conference of Berlin of 1884 and the subsequent Scramble for Africa, to the abuses of the Congo Free State, fights against tropical disease, Italy's defeat by the Abyssinians, World War II, apartheid in South Africa and colonial moves towards independence, the documents in this resource cover the whole of the modern period of European colonization of the continent.

Confidential Print: Latin America, 1833-1969Covers the South and Central America, plus the non-British islands of the Caribbean, from just after the final Spanish withdrawal from mainland America in the 1820s to the Cold War in the 1960s. Covering revolutions, territorial changes and political movements, foreign financial interests, industrial and infrastructural development (including the building of the Panama Canal), wars, slavery, immigration from Europe and relations with indigenous peoples, amongst other topics. 

Confidential Print: Middle East. Covers such events as the Egyptian reforms of Muhammad Ali Pasha in the nineteenth century, the Middle East Conference of 1921, the Mandates for Palestine and Mesopotamia and the Suez Crisis in 1956, to the partition of Palestine, post-Suez Western foreign policy and the Arab-Israeli conflict. This collection originated out of a need to preserve the most important papers generated by the Foreign and Colonial Offices. These documents range from single-page letters or telegrams to comprehensive dispatches, investigative reports and texts of treaties.  

Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO)Contains over 180,000 items published in Great Britain and its colonies, including those in North America, during the 18th Century.  Rich source of information about the American and French Revolutions and all aspects of 18th Century life in Britain and its colonies.

Empire OnlineIncludes 70,000 images of original manuscript and printed documents to support study and research in the field of colonial and empire studies. Five sections include: Cultural Contacts, 1492-1969; Empire Writing and the Literature of Empire; The Visible Empire; Religion and Empire; and Race, Class, Imperialism and Colonialism, c. 1607-1969 (coming soon). In addition to original documents, this database contains scholarly essays and analysis.

Foreign Office files for ChinaThe complete British Foreign Office Files dealing with China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in this period from 1919 (the beginning of the Republic of China) to 1949 (when the Chinese Communist Party won power) to 1976 (the year of Mao Zedong's death) to 1990. These resources are from the National Archives, Kew, the UK government's official archive.

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers. Provides full-text access to thousands of 18th, 19th and 20th Century Parliamentary Papers. Includes all the "sessional papers" of the British Parliament: bills, reports of committees, papers presented by Royal Commissions and government departments, treaties and international agreements, command papers, and statistics.

ProQuest CongressionalOne stop shopping for U.S. congressional publications. Provides index and abstracts of congressional publications back to 1789, including full text of published Congressional Hearings from 1824-present (unpublished until 1979), full text Committee Prints from 1830-present, full text Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports from 1916-present, full text United States Congressional Serial Set (and its various former titles) from 1789-present.

Slavery and Anti-SlaveryIncludes more than 1.5 million pages, 7000+ books, 80+ serials, 15 manuscript collections as well as court records and reference materials documents related to the antebellum era. Published through partnerships with the Amistad Research Center, Oberlin College, Oxford University, & many other institutions. 

Historical Commodity Statistics

Commodity Trade Statistics Database (COMTRADE)Trade data from 130 countries, detailed by commodity and partner country from the United Nationsd. For many countries, data goes back to 1962. To use this database it is important to specify the international classification code you need (ISIC or HS). For long historical runs select "as reported."

Global Commodity Database.  By Robert Allen, Oxford University and Richard Unger, UBC. Includes clickable maps. Data lists can be viewed by geographic market, currency, and commodity, and can be queried. Data is from approximately 1260 to 1914. Most data is from Europe but selected data also from South Asia, East Asia, and the Americas. NOTE: this data is 'picky' and best used with IE. Click the maps or commodity lists for best results.

Direction of Trade Statistics (IMF eLibrary). Data on merchandise exports and imports disaggregated according to a country's primary trading partners, quarterly from 1946 to present. Go to the specialized query builder first and select "Country/Partner Country" before selecting "Direction of Trade Statistics" as the data source. Registration required to download larger data sets - register at "my Data" at the top and use an email address as the user name. 

Global Financial Data. Contains long runs of historical data (over 6,000 series) on security markets and macroeconomic trends for over 150 countries, including some historical commodity price data. Click "logon annonymously" or register for a free account as a Berkeley student.

Historical Statistics of the United States.  Coverage begins with the colonial and pre-Federal period and goes up to 2000.  Excellent source of information for studying U.S. history, economics, politics, and other topics.

International Historical Statistics. Africa, Asia and Oceania, 1750-2005. B.R. Mitchell. Key economic and social indicators for Africa Asia and Oceania from 1750. Print volumes shelved in Government Reference, Doe Library HA4675 .M55 2007.   

International Historical Statistics: the Americas, 1750-2000. B.R. Mitchell. Key economic and social indicators for the Americas from 1750. Print volume shelved in Government Reference, Doe library HA175 .M55 2003.   

International Historical Statistics. Europe, 1750-2005. B.R. Mitchell. Key economic and social indicators for European countries from 1750.  Print volume shelved in Government Reference, Doe Library HA1107 .M5 2007.

Montevideo Oxford Latin American Economic History Database.  Statistical series for a range of economic and social indicators covering countries in Latin America for the twentieth century and beyond. Includes data on population, labour force, selected industries, transport and communication, external trade, finance, national accounts, and commodity prices indices.

NBER Macroeconomic History Data. Covers all aspects of the pre-WWI and interwar economies, including production, construction, employment, money, prices, foreign trade, and government activity. Many series are at the monthly or quarterly frequency. Some coverage of the United Kingdom, France and Germany, although it predominantly covers the United States

USA Trade Online. Find specific U.S. export and import information on more than 18,000 commodities worldwide. This is a passworded site. To access, ask at the Doe Reference Desk.

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Research Advisory Service

Research Advisory Service for Cal Undergraduates

Book a 30-minute appointment with a librarian who will help refine and focus research inquiries, identify useful online and print sources, and develop search strategies for humanities and social sciences topics (examples of research topics).

Schedule, view, edit or cancel your appointment online (CalNetID required)

This service is for Cal undergraduates only. Graduate students and faculty should contact the library liaison to their department or program for specialized reference consultations.

Library Workshop: Research 101

Unsure how to start a paper or research project? Think maybe you could stand to brush up ostudent with laptopn search strategies?

If this sounds familiar, Library Workshop: Research 101 has you covered. This interactive tutorial explores six stages of the research process. You can view it from start to finish, or focus on specific sections as needed:

1: Begin Your Research

Starting strategies from choosing a topic to search keywords.

2: Knowledge Cycle

The publication timeline, scholarly v. popular sources, and differences in academic disciplines.

3: Finding Books

Search for books and other items in OskiCat, Cal's local library catalog.

4: Finding Articles

Locate and access articles in library research databases.

5: Basic Search

Common techniques for constructing searches that yield useful results.

6: Advanced Search

Specialized search strategies for targeting specific topics.

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