History, Africa *: Library of Congress Classification System

This guide is intended to help any faculty, graduate, or undergraduate student find resources in the area of African history.

Library of Congress Classification System

Although many research resources, including books, are available online, the USC Libraries still maintains a large collection of print materials. Most of these items are organized on open shelves according to a classification system developed by the United States Library of Congress.

This classification scheme ensures that materials are grouped together under the same subject categories, making it easier to locate related items by browsing the shelves next to the book you want. This does not mean, however, that ALL items on a topic will be in the same section. For example, books on a broad topic, such as, "women in politics" might be located under women's studies, political science, history, sociology, communications, and other disciplines, all of which are assigned call numbers corresponding to different areas of shelving within the library. This is why searching a topic in the Library Catalog may give you a list of items with completely different call numbers.

For more detail about how materials are arranged by subject area classification, click on the letter.

  • A -- General works
  • B -- Philosophy, psychology, religion
  • C -- Auxiliary sciences of history
  • D -- World history and history of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
  • E -- History of the Americas -- America and the United States
  • F -- History of the Americas -- United States local history, British America, Dutch America, French America, Latin America (Spanish America)
  • G -- Geography, anthropology, recreation
  • H -- Social sciences
  • J -- Political science
  • K -- Law
  • L -- Education
  • M -- Music and books on music
  • N -- Fine arts
  • P -- Language and literature
  • Q -- Science
  • R -- Medicine
  • S -- Agriculture
  • T -- Technology
  • U -- Military science
  • V -- Naval science
  • Z -- Bibliography, library science, information resources (general)

How to Read Call Numbers

Call numbers are located on (or near) the spine of a book or other item on the shelf. The call number is made up of a combination of numbers and letters that are read left-to-right, top-to-bottom. Below is an example of a book in print as it appears in the USC library catalog:

Ayittey, George B. N. Defeating Dictators: Fighting Tyranny in Africa and Around the World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
Library for International and Public Affairs, Available, BOOKSTACKS;
JQ 1879.A15 A98 2011

On the spine of the book, this call number would be located on the shelf as follows:

JQ Read in alphabetical order:  JQ is shelved before JS
1879 Read in numeric order as a whole number:  1879 is shelved before 1880 but after 1878
.A15 Read the letter in alphabetical order; read the number as a decimal:  .A15 is shelved before .A151
A98 If there is another letter/number combination, read the letter alphabetically and read that number as a decimal even though the decimal point is omitted:  A98 is shelved before A732
2011 If there's a publication date, read it in numeric [chronological] order [this really only matters if there are multiple editions of the same book]