Rhode Island is a small state, but one with a long and varied history. The following essay will illustrate the many and rich resources available to study the state's history and development. At the same time it should be noted that, with a few exceptions, not a great deal of recent scholarship has been produced, particularly on contemporary events. This is in some measure due to the fact that, unlike many states, the required study of Rhode Island history and politics has not been written into the curricula of the state's public colleges nor as a mandatory part of the secondary-school curriculum.
The following are the most important and fruitful sources of historical and political material about the state that, in addition to the sources cited in the notes, can be consulted by those interested in further study and research.
Any study of the state should begin at the library. The availability of journals, books, special collections, and government documents varies, but cumulatively these provide a rich source of materials.
The University of Rhode Island Library has extensive research material in its collection. The system houses a special collection, “Rhode Island Historical Manuscripts, ” which includes an array of early town records, letters, correspondence, and subject files. This collection also contains the political papers of many twentieth-century political figures, including former U. S. Senator Claiborne Pell, former governor and U. S. Senator John O. Pastore, Philip Noel, and Bruce Sundlun. It also houses the Rhode Island Collection, which contains historical material such as state publications printed prior to 1900, atlases, tax books, periodicals, maps, and early Rhode Island almanacs.