Washington and Lee University

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reference sources -- Journalism 180
great trials in history

Need an overview of a particular trial and/or the issues involved?  You can use the sources below for authoritative, reliable accounts.

The below are just a small selection from large online collections of reference books (encyclopedias, etc.) we have purchased.



Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide

This 2007 volume includes: thematic essays exploring the events, including historical background, interpretations, and aftermath; biographical sketches; 50 primary document excerpts, including petitions, letters, and revealing trial testimony; a chronology of events; a glossary of key names, terms, and language used at the trials.

Famous American Crimes and Trials

Five-volume set (2004) contains over 50 chronologically-arranged accounts of famous crimes and trials in American history, including descriptions of the crimes within historical context, the cast of characters, the trials themselves, and media involvement.

Crimes and Trials of the Century

Two-volume set (2007) contains chronologically-arranged accounts of about 35 trials of the past century, beginning with the Black Sox scandal (1919) and continuing to the 21st-century Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.

Illusive Shadows: Justice, Media, and Socially Significant American Trials

Includes essays on ten famous crimes in U.S. history, the subsequent trials, and the media coverage of each.


Modern Scandals: 1904-2008

Outlines over 300 scandals, defined as "typically high-profile events that garner considerable media attention and public discussion but nevertheless often remain poorly understood... generally understood as applying to misbehavior and wrongful acts."

Gale Encyclopedia of American Law

This is the e-book version of the 14-volume set, published in 2010.  Its 5,000 entries cover historical and current terms, concepts, events, movements, cases, and persons significant to U.S law.

Media and American Courts

Guide to cases, personalities, and controversies that have redefined the court/press relationship in the past century as the media expanded from print and radio to courtroom cameras, cable, and the World Wide Web.

Dictionary of American History

This is the third edition (2003) of the most comprehensive encyclopedia on American history, comprising ten volumes in printed form. The 4,400 signed articles range in length up to 7,000 words.

Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World.  

Over 2,000 signed and alphabetically-arranged entries, providing coverage of social, economic, cultural and political topics, spanning the period from about 1750 to current times.