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American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Historical Monographs Collections - FAQs

The following are frequently asked questions about the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Historical Monographs Collections. Please click on a question to view the answer.

What are the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Historical Monographs Collections?
Please download the document attached at the bottom of this page for a product overview, including  descriptions for each database in the series. For more information or to download a comprehensive title list, click here.

Which major subject areas are covered by the ATLA Historical Monographs Collections?
ATLA Executive Director Dr. Dennis A. Norlin has identified seven major subject areas covered by the collection:

  1. Doctrinal Disputes, including evolution, apologetics, heresy & Social Gospel
  2. Higher Criticism, including the Historical Critical Method & biblical languages
  3. Social Movements, including slavery as well as women and religion
  4. Changing Demographics, including religious revivals, immigration and Native American religion
  5. Judeo-Christian Religions, including a variety of Protestant denominations, the Catholic Church, Judaism, and Islam
  6. Non-Western Religions, including the introduction of Eastern religions to the West, the development of syncretistic movements, and missionary response to those developments
  7. Church Life, including works of Christian Biography, preaching, and prayer & devotional materials

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What is Islam in the Modern World, 1804-1918?
Islam in the Modern World, 1804-1913, is a special segment of the ATLA Historical Monographs Collection. It includes 150 titles, containing 172 volumes and representing more than 52,000 pages about the beliefs, practices, theology, spirituality, and history of Islam. Curated by experts in Islamic thought and history, these titles were selected based on thematic strengths, language, and the latest in scholarly research. Content includes biographies of the prophet Muhammad, works comparing Christianity and Islam, key theological and philosophical texts (including the Quran), relevant mystical and spiritual works, and texts surveying the history of Islam. Predominantly in English, the collection also contains volumes in German and French.

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What are Overview Essays and where will I find them for the ATLA Historical Monograph Collections?
Overview essays are reviews and summaries written by prominent historians who have used this collection for historical research. These essays recapitulate the importance of this collection and range from a very detailed collection overview by the ATLA President Dr. Dennis Norlin to overviews by prominent religious orator and scholar Dr. Martin Marty. The essays provide an invaluable insight in to the collection and highlight the research value of the content. The following overview essays are currently available on the product as part of the Reference Shelf Items presented on the right side of the result list screen:

  • Nineteenth & Early Twentieth Century Developments in Religion by Dennis Norlin, Ph.D.
  • The Changing Role of Religion in American Life, 1850-1923 by Martin E. Marty, Ph.D.
  • Forerunners of the Modern Missionary Movement: Their Role with Special Reference to India, 1650 – 1800 by Robert Eric Frykenberg, Ph.D.
  • Advents of Christianity in China, With a Comparative Perspective on Missionary Activities in India by Robert Eric Frykenberg, Ph.D.
  • The Growth of the Catholic Church in America: From Minority Colonial Missionary Community to National Church, 1634-1908 by Martin E. Marty, Ph.D.
  • Righteous Empire Revisited by Dr. Martin E. Marty, Ph.D.
  • Free Grace, Free Books, Free Riders: The Economics Of Religious Publishing In Early Nineteenth-Century America by David Paul Nord, Ph.D.
  • `Enthusiasm For Liberty': The Great Awakening As The Key To The Revolution by William G. Mc Loughlin, Ph.D.

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How many titles are in ATLA Monographs on “American Religious History?"

  • The series breakdown is as follows:
    • Series 1 (1300-1893): 1,689 titles
    • Series 2 (1894-1923): 1,484 titles
  • The entire “Phase 8: Denominational Materials” portion of the collection (as defined and discussed in Dennis Norlin’s “Essay on Nineteenth & Early Twentieth Century Developments in Religion") is available on the ATLA database’s Reference Shelf under Overview Essays Collection. The collection also includes:
    • The entire “Phase 7a: Denominal Documentation Series: Doctrine and Work (Missions & Christian Education), State and Regional Histories, Biography, and Autobiography, Polity, and some Hymnody”
    • The entire “Phase 6c: ATLA Denominational Documentation Series.”
  • In addition to each of these complete phases within the collection, you will also find:
    • Works that pertain to America specific denominations, religious groups, and religious movements such as Mormons, Christian Science, Congregational churches, Episcopal Church (USA), the Puritans.
    • Titles pertaining to uniquely American religious phenomenon such as revivals, evolution, anti-Catholicism (American style, anyway), and the temperance movement are also included.

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How many “Catholic” titles are available in the ATLA Historical Monograph Collection?
Included in the collection are 436 volumes with “Catholicism” as the subject. While this seems like a small number given the overall title count, it is the highest number of volumes pertaining to any one Christian community or denomination in the collection. This would be a great value for example for Catholic institutions where these monographs are not readily available in hard copy (or in libraries, via Inter Library Loan, etc.) This does not include most works of biblical studies or theology that would pertain to Catholic-specific subjects or by Catholic authors.

  1. Books with Catholic-oriented subject matter comprise over 10% of the overall collection at 3244 titles. This is a rather astonishing fact given that in the early 1800s Catholicism was an immigrant, minority religion.

  2. There are more titles pertaining to Catholicism than any other single Protestant denomination, such as Lutherans or Baptists. See Dennis Norlin’s essay for a rough idea of this. Norlin’s essay is available on the database via Reference Shelf and also upon request.

  3. 37 Catholic-oriented key words were used to pull together this list from the broader title list of nearly 30,000. Terms you would expect were used, like “Catholic Church,” “saint,” “pope,” “Blessed Virgin,” “infallibility,” and “sacrament.” Also more historical (and derogatory) terms like “papist,” “popery,” “papism,” and “Romanism” were also used.

  4. This list was prepared by someone with a graduate degree in Catholic theology and an undergraduate emphasis in 19th century American religion.

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Why is the content in ATLA weighted more toward Protestant religions and less on Judaism and Catholicism?
It is very important to understand that any broad collection of American content will be weighted toward Protestantism. America is historically a Protestant country, and thus had Protestant writers writing Protestant books. However, some of these writers were occupied with Catholic subjects and Catholic authors replied to these concerns. Also there were a lot of highly educated Catholic priests, bishops, monks, and nuns that came to the United States beginning in the early 1800s to minister to the growing immigrant populations. These people wrote books, too, and these books comprise a significant number of the titles on this list.

  • Catholic Titles: See FAQ above.
  • Jewish Titles: Jewish titles comprise about 3% of the overall collection at 1,116 titles. Jewish people were an even smaller minority than Catholics in America in the 19th century and this number is reflected in the lower number of titles in the collection.
    Note: 14 Jewish-oriented keywords were used to populate this list. Keywords include "Torah," "Judaism," and "Talmud." Subjects of the titles include a wide range of Jewish history, Scripture studies, theology, sociology, social life and customs, and language studies.

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How many foreign language titles are contained in the ATLA collections? Are these listed in the original language or transcribed? Are English translations of those titles/abstracts always available in addition?
There are 14 titles in Aramaic, 66 titles in Hebrew, and 394 titles in German. There are total 28 different languages presented in ATLA collections including Asian and Middle Eastern languages. Foreign language titles have the original language listed in the language field in the citation. There is no English translation of the full text available for this content. However, English titles, abstracts, and index terms are available, which will help English-speaking users search and discover materials in the collection.

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Is all the content on ATLA collection “American?”
It depends on what one means by “American.” Most of the content in both collections was published or printed in the United States, but the subject matter can range widely and well beyond the confines of the US. ATLA is not just an American history collection, as there are monographs covering a variety of religions and countries. However, it is largely true that this is a collection reflective of American religious history. For example, there are over 600 titles that pertain to India. However, a lot of these have to do with American missionaries in India, or Americans discovering and studying various aspects of Hinduism or Buddhism presenting another flavor of this diverse collection.

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What is the difference between the Primary vs. Secondary sources on the ATLA databases?
The difference between "primary" and "secondary" is relative, depending on what someone is studying. If, for example, a researcher is interested in studying the impact of certain 19th-century events (whether immigration, revivals, or anti-Catholic riots) on people's perception of religious history, or their use of that history to explain contemporary events, then the ATLA collection is extremely useful in tracking these trends. But if a researcher is interested in just religious history itself, then yes, the ATLA collection contains secondary (and obviously outdated) material. The value of the ATLA material comes from its ability to answer more cultural and interdisciplinary questions. In addition, the content contains important samples of early biblical texts and languages that otherwise may have dropped out of the historical record. ATLA contains no original manuscript material but reprints of certain manuscripts discovered over the period of time and probably never published the first time around. However, to reiterate, that is a very limited definition of "primary" source.

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How do I access MARC records for the product to load into my OPAC once I have purchased?

You’ll need to go to and log in.After logging in, please follow the steps below to download the records.

  1. Click on the Database Title Lists link in the top toolbar. Your institution name is displayed to the right of Current Site. (see red arrow).

    Click Database title lists link
  2. The MARC 21 tab (see below) displays automatically, with a list of MARC files to download for every EBSCO database you have. The ATLA Historical Monographs are close to the top on my screen; yours may differ somewhat. Click on the h7h-all.marc and h8h-all.marc hyperlinks and they should download automatically.

    click marc download hyperlinks

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See also: