The Rhode Island Historical Society is proud to introduce The Rhode Island History Navigator. This project was made possible in part by a grant from the RI Office of Library & Information Services using funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Our goal is to make a database of the most comprehensive collection of historical writings about Rhode Island easily accessible to all on the RI History Navigator website. The content of this website is based on the carefully curated Rhode Island: A Bibliography of its History, published by the University Press of New England in 1983 and currently out of print.

As of 2021, this site contains 1,151 entries, comprising the “general” section of the bibliography, and 10% of these will link to the full text of the work (i.e., those in the public domain). Resources permitting, the remaining 3,929 entries comprising the works that cover the history of specific cities and towns (and those added in subsequent published supplements through 2010) will be entered in 2022, and a similar percentage of those will link to full texts.

Although in its infancy, this resource has already proven to be a useful tool for researchers. Ultimately, it will provide the most comprehensive list of works about Rhode Island’s history in a free, searchable database. As the full texts of those works are scanned or linked, it will become a free digital library for those seeking information on Rhode Island’s past.

We hope you enjoy your Rhode Island Navigator experience and find inspiration in your discoveries.

Scope of Content

The database’s scope is derived from that of the original bibliography. It includes published writings—books, pamphlets, and articles from magazines and journals—about Rhode Island’s past. For a work to be considered, it had to be written at least a year after the events it described and deal primarily with events that occurred in Rhode Island. Excluded from this database are: almanacs, directories, guidebooks, government documents, newspaper articles, genealogies, maps and atlases, works of fiction, juvenile literature, and most biographies and autobiographies. Exceptions include: family histories, certain newspaper articles which were part of an historical series, and biographies and autobiographies which contain significant material about some aspect of Rhode Island history.

Important Note on Content

Material in the Rhode Island History Navigator has been made available to the community for the purpose of education, research, and/or study. We acknowledge that some content may contain language that is considered insensitive or offensive towards marginalized communities by today’s standards, due to the nature of the culture and attitudes of the various time periods represented.

Bibliography Background

The Rhode Island History Navigator is an online version of a research tool conceived in the late 1960s—a period of social turmoil when scholarly and professional organizations argued for the “relevance” of history, and therefore the need to make its vast literature more accessible.

In May 1969, the New England Library Association sponsored a weekend conference at Old Sturbridge Village in which twenty historians and librarians discussed the feasibility of compiling a bibliography of New England history. The next year, the Committee for a New England Bibliography was incorporated as a nonprofit organization, and over the next 40 years—funded partially by the NEH and sponsored by scores of institutions—it published eleven volumes (one on each state plus five supplements), listing more than 60,000 titles on regional, state, and local history subjects.

The volume on Rhode Island was published in 1983 as Rhode Island: A Bibliography of its History. It listed 4,125 books, pamphlets and articles “written as history or having an historical dimension or nature,” and edited by Dr. Roger Parks. Successive supplements in the series added hundreds of entries for Rhode Island through 2010, bringing the total to 5,080.


Providing an optimal experience on this website for visitors is of paramount importance. To help ensure this, we met with representatives of the key groups likely to benefit most from the content on this website: teachers, students, librarians, historians and scholars. We were very fortunate to have people who were so engaged and insightful. They inspired more than we could have imagined. We are so very grateful to them. 

Jason Ackerman
Digital Resources Coordinator, Office of Library & Information Services, Rhode Island Department of Administration

Dr. Charlotte Carrington-Farmer
Associate Professor of History, Roger Williams University

Katherine Clifford
Secretary, Rhode Island Historical Society Teen Advisory Board, High School Student

Catherine DeCesare, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of History, The University of Rhode Island

Annelise Demers
Treasurer, Rhode Island Historical Society Teen Advisory Board, High School Student

Jennifer Galpern
Research Services Manager, Rhode Island Historical Society

Dana Munroe
Curator of Graphics & Database Administrator, Rhode Island Historical Society

Jarred P. Paccate
Ph.D. Candidate, African American Women’s History, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Traci Picard
Researcher and Public Historian

Elena Rios
Librarian Assistant, Cranston Public Libraries, MLIS Graduate Student, Simmons University 

Lane Sparkman
Associate Director of Education & Public Programs, Rhode Island Department of State

Dr. Luther Spoehr
Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Education & History
Brown University

Lily Trunzo
Vice President, Rhode Island Historical Society Teen Advisory Board, High School Student