History of Illinois – Free History Books – State of Illinois


Free online Illinois history books and articles, covering the 17th to the early 20th centuries. These are general or comprehensive histories covering a wide range of subjects. Histories of particular topics of Illinois history are found on more than a dozen subject webpages of Illinois history on this website.

Find the Directory for 90+ pages in this collection at History of the Great Lakes States.


The Illinois Country, 1673-1818

Alvord, Clarence W.
Springfield: Illinois Centennial Commission. 1920

Professor Clarence Walworth Alvord (1868 – 1928) spent his career immersed in Illinois history. The writing of this centennial history of Illinois was sponsored by the Illinois State Historical Library and the University of Illinois. Chapter headings are:

– The Land in the Making – The Illinois Indians and their Neighbors – The Age of Discovery – The Great Governor and his Opponents – The First Struggle for Empire – Fur Trade and Missions – The Foundation of Louisiana – The Era of Speculation, 1712- 1731 – The Royal Province – The Country of the Illinois – The Great Decision – Organization of the New Territory – The British Occupation – Colonization and the Quebec Act – The Struggle for the West – The County of Illinois – The Period of the City States – The Organization of the West – The Arrival of the Americans – The Indians at Bay – In the Fullness of Time – Bibliography

For historic maps of the Great Lakes region and states, see:
Great Lakes Maps, Atlases & Map Collections
;
Ohio Maps, Atlases & Map Collections;
Indiana Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Illinois Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Michigan Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Wisconsin Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers

The Critical Period, 1763-1765. British Series, Vol 1

Alvord, Clarence W. and Carter, Clarence E., eds.
Springfield, ILL: Illinois State Historical Library 1915

“This is volume 10 of the Collections of the Illinois state historical library, and volume 1 of the British series, a series of several volumes to cover the period of British domination. “This one, being a preliminary volume, contains two valuable introductory essays, one entitled ‘British Illinois, 1763-1768.’ and the other ‘The British occupation of the Illinois country, 1763-1765.’ The first essay shows that British Illinois was a matter of discussion rather than of realization: and the second is a summary of events leading up to the possession of the country by the British. The documents included in the book are, in the main, devoted to three general subjects: description of the country and its inhabitants, French and Indian; the plans of the British for the exploitation of their newly acquired territory; and their efforts to obtain possession of it.”
“Many of the copies made by Professor Carter from the manuscripts stored in the capitol in Albany have peculiar value now, as the originals were destroyed by the fire. . . . The care with which this material has been grouped into chapters, thoroughly indexed, and illuminated by a special introduction and footnotes, makes it an admirable example of scholarly editing.”
“Anyone who cares for this portion of the history of our common country will find this book readable and instructive; to the writer of history it is a source-book which cannot be overlooked.”
– The Book Review Digest

Note that any French documents in the collection are translated. Chapter headings are:

– British Illinois, 1763- 1778 (General Introduction) – The British Occupation of the Illinois Country, 1763- 1765 (Special Introduction) – Organization of the Western Territory, Mar 1763 – Dec 7, 1763 – Banishment of the Jesuits – The Proposed Colony of Charlotina – The Journal of M. Dabbadie, 1763- 1764 – Major Loftus Attempts to Reach the Illinois, Dec 5, 1763 to Apr 9, 1764 – Accounts from the Illinois, Apr 14, 1764 to Jun 29, 1764 – The Regulation of Indian Affairs, Jul 10, 1764 to Sep 30, 1764 – Letters about the Indians, Oct 8, 1764 to Nov 9, 1764 – Close of the Indian War, Nov 9, 1764 to Jan 16, 1765 – British Messengers are sent to the Illinois Country, Jan 13, 1765 to Feb 24, 1765 – The First British Agents reach the Illinois Country, Feb 25, 1765 to Jul 1765 – Appendix: Early Preparations to Occupy the Illinois Country

See also: Schuyler, Robert L. , The Transition in Illinois from British to American Government in Illinois History, Politics, & Government

For works on the Old Northwest under the French regime (until about 1760), see: Great Lakes General History

See our 10 webpages with hundreds of books on American history at American History Books

Also see our collections of articles at Articles on U.S. History until 1800 and Articles on 19th Century U.S. History

The New Regime 1765-1767. British Series, Vol 2

Alvord, Clarence W. and Carter, Clarence E., eds.
Springfield, ILL: Illinois State Historical Library 1916

This is the second of three volumes of collected historical documents in a series on the era of the British regime in Illinois country. Note that any French documents in the collection are translated. Chapter headings are:

– The Inauguration of the New Regime (Special Introduction) – George Croghan’s Journals, Feb 28, 1765 to Oct 8, 1765 – Occupation of Fort de Chartres, Jul 24, 1765 to Nov 16, 1765 – The Completion of the Occupation, Dec 13, 1765 to Apr 6, 1766 – Plans for a Colony, Mar 9, 1766 to May 10, 1766 – Conflicting Plans, May 10, 1766 to Jun 15, 1766 – The Rendezvous at the Illinois, Jun 18, 1766 to Jul 18, 1766 – The Trade and Colonial Plans Progress, Jul 30, 1766 to Oct 11, 1766 – A Chapter of Opinions, Oct 28, 1766 to Nov 27, 1766 – The Value of the Illinois Country, Nov 21, 1766 to Feb 24, 1767 – Discussion of the Indian Trade, Mar 1, 1767 to Jul 15, 1767

Books and articles on Native American tribes in historic Illinois

Trade and Politics, 1767-1769. British Series, Vol 3

Alvord, Clarence W. and Carter, Clarence E., eds.
Springfield, ILL: Illinois State Historical Library 1921

This is the third of three volumes of collected historical documents in a series on the era of the British regime in Illinois country. Note that any French documents in the collection are translated. Chapter headings are:

– Trade and Politics in the Illinois Country, 1767 – 1769 (Special Introduction) – Lord Shelburne Announces his Policy, Aug 28, 1767 – Oct 5, 1767 – Summary Views on Indian Relations, Oct 6, 1767 – Nov 20, 1767 – Status of Western Trade, Nov 20, 1767 – Dec 22, 1767 – Western Indian Problem again before the Ministry, Dec 22, 1767 – Apr 4, 1768 – Management of Trade transferred to Colonies, Apr 5, 1768 – Apr 23, 1768 – The Efforts to Stop Contraband Trade, Apr 24, 1768 – Jul 7, 1768 – Business Affairs in the Illinois Country, Jul 7, 1768 – Sep 15, 1768 – Internal, Political, and Indian Affairs in the Illinois Country, Oct 9, 1768 – Dec 4, 1768 – Court of Judicature, Dec 6, 1768 – Jan 30, 1773 – Official Correspondence, Dec 10, 1768 – Mar 24, 1769 – Conditions during the Transition from Imperial to Colonial Management, Mar 24, 1769 – Jun 15, 1769 – The Effect of the Death of Pontiac on Western Indians, Jun 16, 1769 – Sep 14, 1769 – The Disposition of the Illinois Country under Consideration, Sep 19, 1769 – Dec 29, 1769

Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Knox County.

Bateman, Newton, Selby, Paul, Gale, W. Selden and Gale, George C.
Chicago: Munsell. 1899

This is essentially two separate volumes packaged together in this edition. The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois is 608 pages. Over half the entries appear to be biographical, and the majority of the rest appear to be towns and counties.

The portion of the volume for Knox County has its own Table of Contents on page 609. Part 1 is on the county, Part 2, at over 100 pages, is on Galesburg, and Part 3, at over 150 pages, is on towns and townships. There are biographies within all three sections and numerous portraits.

Books and articles on Great Lakes Sailors & Shipping in History

History of Illinois

Blanchard, Rufus
Chicago: National School Furnishing 1883

The Industrial State, 1870-1893

Bogart, Ernest L. and Thompson, Charles M.
Chicago: McClurg 1922

Volume four of the Centennial History of Illinois.

Also see: America in the Late 19th Century

Books and articles on Politics & Government in historic Illinois

The Modern Commonwealth, 1893-1918

Bogart, Ernest L. and Mathews, John M.
Chicago: McClurg 1922

Volume five of the Centennial History of Illinois.

Also see: History of the U.S. in the 20th Century

The Settlement of Illinois: 1778-1830

Boggess, Arthur Clinton
Chicago: Chicago Historical Society. 1908

“The record of the narrow poverty out of which came abundance, of the chaos out of which came organization, in short, the record of the small beginnings of a great American commonwealth. The description is minute: forty-five closely printed pages contain the list of the authorities used. lts accuracy is vouched for by Prof. Frederick J. Turner and J.. B. McMaster, who critically read the work before publication.”
“The book will have small attraction for those who read merely for pleasure. The sober student, however, will find here the bases of Illinois’s history clearly and fully discussed.”
– The Book Review Digest

The author was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin when he wrote the original version of this book. Chapter headings are:

– The County of Illinois – The Period of Anarchy in Illinois – The Land and Indian Questions – Government Succeeding Period of Anarchy – Obstacles to Immigration – Illinois during the Territorial Period – Territorial Government of Illinois – Transportation and Settlement – Life of the Settlers – The First Years of Statehood; The Indian and Land Questions – The Government and Its Representatives – Transportation – Life of the People – Slavery in Illinois as Affecting Settlement – Successful Frontiersmen – Bibliography

Also see: History of the U.S. Under the Constitution – 1789-1809, and America in the Early 19th Century – 1809-1861

An online vintage collection of Settlers’ guides and ‘Emigrant Handbooks’ for the Great Lakes region

Illinois in 1818. Centennial History of Illinois Vol 1

Buck, Solon J.
Chicago: McClurg. 1918

All five volumes of The Illinois Centennial History, by different authors, are also found on this web page. Chapter headings for this volume are:

– The Indians and the Fur Trade – The Public Lands – Extent of Settlement – The Pioneers – The Economic Situation – Social Conditions – The Political Situation – The Movement for Admission – The Convention Campaign – Framing the Constitution – A State in the Union – Appendix – Bibliography

Great Britain and the Illinois country, 1763-1774

Carter, Clarence E.
Washington: American Historical Ass. 1910

“Great Britain came into the possession of the Illinois country by virtue of the adjustments with France after the Seven years’ war; but Lord Shelburne insisted that the English title was based upon the discovery and settlement of the Atlantic seaboard, and that the infinite parallels forming the north and south boundaries of the colonies included the western country. Professor Carter deals with the relations that existed between the British government and the French settlements on the left bank of the Mississippi river above the mouth of the Ohio, during the period from the treaty of 1763 to the advent of the Americans under George Rogers Clark.”
“No letter or document that throws light on the subject seems to have escaped this indefatigable searcher. In the effort to preserve a critical attitude towards his subject, the author has eliminated much matter that would have enlivened his discussion; and at times his English is so involved as to make the reading difficult.”
– The Book Review Digest

Chapter headings for this volume are:

– Introductory Survey – Status of the Illinois Country in the Empire – Occupation of the Illinois Country – Five Years of Disorder, 1765- 1770 – Trade Conditions in the Illinois Country, 1765- 1775 – Schemes for the Colonization of the Illinois Country, 1763- 1768 – The Struggle for a Civil Government, 1770- 1774 – Documentary Appendix – Bibliography

See also: Schuyler, Robert L., The Transition in Illinois from British to American Government in Illinois History, Politics, & Government

Books and articles about everyday life, women, ethnic groups, social issues etc. at Topics in the social history of Illinois

The Era of the Civil War 1848-1870. Centennial History of Illinois Vol 3

Cole, Arthur Charles
Chicago: McClurg. 1922

All five volumes of The Illinois Centennial History, by different authors, are also found on this web page. Chapter headings of this volume are:

– The Passing of the Frontier – The Coming of the Railroads – Agitation and compromise, 1848- 1852 – Prairie Farming and Banking – The Kansas- Nebraska Act – The Origin of the Republican Party – The Lincoln- Douglas Debates – The Election of 1860 – The Growing Pains of Society – Church and School, 1850- 1860 – The Appeal to Arms – Recruiting Ground and Battlefield – The New Abolitionists and the Copperheads – The Reelection of Lincoln – Population in Wartime – The Industrial Revolution, 1860- 1870 – Agriculture and the War – Reconstruction and the Military Politician – The Spoils and the Spoilers, 1867- 1870 – Religion, Morality, and Education, 1860- 1870 – Play and the Press – Bibliography

For U.S. histories of the same period, see: America in the Early 19th Century – 1809-1861, and Civil War in America

“The Passing of the Frontier”

Mississippi Valley Historical Review Vol V, 1918-19, 288-312

Cole, Arthur C.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association

The author uses demographic and economic data as well as descriptions of conditions in cities and towns to illustrate how Illinois by 1850s had replaced much of its pioneer atmosphere with an environment similar to that of the developed eastern U.S.

Books and articles on Abraham Lincoln

Illinois

Darling, Frank W.
NY: Macmillan 1904

Books and articles on War in historic Illinois

A Complete History of Illinois from 1673-1873

embracing the Physical Features of the Country; its Early Explorations; Aboriginal Inhabitants; French and British Occupation; Conquest by Virginia; Territorial Condition and the Subsequent Civil, Military and Political Events of the State

Davidson, Alexander and Stuve, Bernard
Springfield ILL: Phillips. 1877

970 pages. Chapter headings are too numerous to list. The emphasis appears to be on conventional political and military history in the period before statehood, and the history of state politics and government thereafter.

“The first serious attempt at a history of the state. The title sufficiently describes the scope. The authors are hero-worshippers, and display old-fashioned prejudices against Indians and British; naturally, considering the time, they are weak in ethnology and archaeology; and are amateurish in style. The type is solid, the pages uninteresting in appearance, and there is no index. Despite these drawbacks, the book is of considerable merit, and deserves careful attention from the historical student.”
– Literature of American History; a bibliographical guide (1902)

“Yankees and Southerners Clash in Frontier Illinois”

Illinois History Teacher Vol 15, No. 2, 2009, pp 11-15

Davis, James E.
Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

“Frontier Chicago”

Illinois History Teacher Vol 6, No. 1, 1999, pp 26-28

Duis, Perry
Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

“Illinois as a French Colony”

Illinois History Teacher Vol 11, No. 1, 2004, pp 9-13

Esarey, Duane
Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

A History of Illinois, from its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847

Ford, Thomas (Governor)
Chicago: Donnelley 1854

“Covers the years 1818-1847. Gives a valuable account of banking operations; of internal improvements; of the Black Hawk War, and especially of Mormonism in Illinois. Ford was active in state affairs during the entire period, being Governor from 1842 to 1846. His history is based on his own experience and facts drawn from original sources. He was a man of moderate temper and moderate intellect, of strict integrity and positive opinions. Writing from the democratic point of view, he is not impartial or always just; against individuals he is frequently unduly severe. His style is uncouth, though at times forcible and direct.”
– Literature of American History; a bibliographical guide (1902)

Thomas Ford’s widowed mother took her seven children from Pennsylvania to New Design, Monroe Co, Illinois when he was a small boy. Although the family was very poor, his older half-brother succeeded as a lawyer and politician, and helped Thomas to get an education and, eventually, an appointment as State’s Attorney. In 1835 the State Legislature elected him a Circuit Court Judge, where he remained until his election as a State Supreme Court Judge in 1840. He served as Governor from 1842 to 1846, and wrote this ‘history’ immediately afterward.

For U.S. histories of this period, see this page: America in the Early 19th Century – 1809-1861

Illinois: A History of the Prairie State

Howard, Robert P.
Eerdmans 1972

Illinois : The Story of the Prairie State

Humphrey, Grace
Indianapolis : Bobbs-Merrill 1917

This history appears to have been written for high-school aged students, but is lighter reading than a typical textbook.

“An Inflammable Region”: Indians, Anglo-Americans, and Lead Mining in Northwestern Illinois, 1788-1832″

Illinois History Teacher Vol 15, No. 2, 2009, pp 2-6

Jelatis, Virginia
Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

Illinois: History, Government, Geography

Kilduff, Dorrell and Pygman, C. H.
Follett 1962

A 1960s history and civics school text-book, well-illustrated.

Page Directory of 90+ subject pages at History of the Great Lakes States

Chicago Yesterdays: A Sheaf of Reminiscences, Garnered by Caroline Kirkland

Kirkland, Caroline, comp.
Chicago: Daughaday 1919

Collection of articles by various writers.

“Conflicts: The French and the Anglo-Americans in Pre-statehood Illinois”

Illinois History Teacher Vol 9, No. 1, 2002, pp 2-5

Lebeau, B. Pierre
Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

Early Chicago and Illinois

Mason, Edward G.
Chicago: Fergus printing 1890

The Beginnings of Illinois

A historical review of the steps leading to the division of the Northwest country east of the Mississippi into the several states now existing … Wisconsin and Illinois boundary dispute

Meese, William A.
Moline, Il?: 1904

Books and articles on the History of the Great Lakes region

“Public Transportation and the Failure of Municipal Socialism in Chicago, 1905-1907”

Illinois History Teacher Vol 9, No. 1, 2002, pp 28-36

Morton, Richard Allen
Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

The Story of Illinois and Its People

Nida, William Lewis
Chicago: Farquhar & Albright 1921

Intended for use in schools.

The Frontier State 1818-1848: Centennial History of Illinois Vol 2

Pease, Theodore C.
Chicago: McClurg. 1922

All five volumes of The Illinois Centennial History, by different authors, are found on this web page. Chapter headings are:

– The Land and the People – The New State Government, 1818- 1828 – Ten Years of State Finance – The Convention Struggle – The War on Ninian Edwards – The Rise of Jacksonian Democracy – State Politics, 1830- 1834 – The Last of the Indians – The Settlement of the North – The Internal Improvement System – The Wreck of the Internal Improvement System, 1837- 1842 – The Struggle for Party Regularity, 1834- 1838 – The Whig and Democratic Parties; The Convention System – The Passing of the Old Democracy – State Politics, 1840- 1847 – State and Private Banking, 1830- 1845 – The Internal Improvement System: The Solution – The Split of the Democratic Party, 1846- 1848 – The Mormon War – The Slavery Question – Illinois in Ferment – Social, Educational, and Religious Advance, 1830- 1848 – Bibliography

For U.S. histories of this period, see: America in the Early 19th Century – 1809-1861

Collection of Illinois Biographies & Memoirs

The Settlement of Illinois from 1830 to 1850

Pooley, William Vipond
Madison: University of Wisconsin 1905

This was originally the author’s PhD thesis, submitted at the University of Wisconsin Department of History. He wrote in the Introduction that the settlement of Illinois, “may be divided into four clearly defined periods, viz: (1) the period of the French occupation; (2) from the coming of the Americans to the opening of steam navigation on the Great Lakes; (3) from the opening of steam navigation on the Great Lakes to the opening of the railroads across the prairies; (4) after the opening of the railroads.” This book is about the third of these periods. Chapter headings are:

– Introduction – Illinois Before 1830 – The Causes for the Settlement of Illinois – The Way to the West – The Illinois and the Fox River Valleys – The Military Tract – The Rock River Valley – Eastern Illinois – The Lead Region – Chicago – Foreign Elements in the Population of Illinois – The Mormons in Illinois – Communistic Settlements in Illinois – The Prairie Farmer – Conclusion

Stories of Illinois

Pratt-Chadwick, Mara L.
Boston: Educational 1900

From the series Young Folk’s Library of Choice Literature.

Chicago and the Old Northwest, 1673-1835 …

A study of the evolution of the Northwester frontier, together with a history of Fort Dearborn

Quaife, Milo M.
Chicago: Univ of Chicago 1913

“A book which is of more than ordinary interest throughout, while in his study of Fort Dearborn and the Chicago massacre he has made a substantial and illuminating contribution to the history of the West.”
“A careful and thorough study of original sources, written in a style so clear, simple and full of the color of the life that it makes very enjoyable reading. The book is a comprehensive study of the evolution of the northwestern frontier, with Chicago as its pivotal point.”
– The Book Review Digest

For more histories of Chicago, see: History of Illinois Cities, Counties & Regions

Books and articles about work, medical care, business & industry, etc. at Illinois Economic History

The History of Illinois

Pease, Theodore Calvin
Univ of Chicago 1975

“Here is the heritage of contemporary Illinois. This compact history of the state, known for half a century for its historical accuracy as well as story-telling quality, presents the people, places, and events, both local and national, that shaped Illinois from the days of the first explorers through the 1960s.” -Book cover

“Tragedy in the Chicago Fire and Triumph in the Architectural Response”

Illinois History Teacher Vol 4, No. 1, 1997, pp 34-37

Rayfield, Jo Ann
Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

The Pioneer History of Illinois …

containing the discovery in 1673 and the history of the country to the year 1818, when the state government was organized

Reynolds, John
Chicago: Ferguson. 1887

<John Reynolds (1788-1865) served on the Illinois Supreme Court 1818-1825, was a member of the Illinois legislature 1826-1830, 1846-1848 and 1852-1854 (the last term as Speaker of the House), and served as Governor of Illinois 1830-1834. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives 1834-1837 and 1839-1843.

Reynolds arrived in Illinois with his parents as a child, living first in Kaskaskia and then in the Goshen settlement southwest of Edwardsville. He served as a soldier during the War of 1812, after which he began a law career. This history was originally published in 1852.

“From the Indians of Illinois to the organization of the state in 1818. Describes the government of the region by the French and by the English, the introduction of religious organizations, the development of industries, and the growth of political divisions. The work lacks historic judgment; much irrelevant matter is introduced; but it preserves local color in describing the life of early settlers. Probably its greatest service is in numerous short biographies of prominent pioneers, easily found from the index.”
– Literature of American History; a bibliographical guide (1902)

Chapter headings are:

– The Indians of Illinois – The Discovery and Settlement of Illinois, to the first Government of the “Company of the West” in 1718 – Illinois under the French Government – Illinois under the British Government – Illinois under the Government of Virginia – Illinois under the Government of the Northwest Territory – The Religion and Morals of Illinois prior to 1818 – Illinois under the Government of Indiana Territory – Illinois under the Government of the Illinois Territory – Appendix

History of Illinois

Robinson, Luther Emerson and Moore, Irving
NY: American 1909

Books and articles on Local, City, and County History in Illinois

“John Peter Altgeld and the Haymarket Riot Pardons”

Illinois History Teacher Vol 9, No. 1, 2002, pp 9-12

Schlup, Leonard
Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

History of Illinois and her People; Volume1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

Volume 5

Volume 6

Smith, George W.
Chicago: American Historical Society 1927


The author was a Professor of History at the State Teachers College in Carbondale. The first three volumes contain the history of Illinois, and Volumes 4 through 6 are biographical. The Table of Contents for the first 3 volumes is found at the beginning of Volume 1, and the index for all 6 volumes follows immediately after the Table of Contents. Look up individuals profiled in the biographical volumes in that Volume 1 index.

Also see: History of Illinois Cities, Counties & Regions

Story of Illinois

Smith, George Washington
Chicago: Hall & McCreary 1912

A short history, for students.

Collected Maps & Gazetteers for Historic Illinois

The Structuring of a State: The History of Illinois, 1899-1928

Tingley, Donald F.
Urbana: Univ of Illinois 1980

“Tingley chooses to build his historical narrative “from the ground up,” to tell the “story of the real people of the world” — farmers, businessmen, blue collar workers, minorities, artists, sports and other pop culture figures, and many more. His account deliberately avoids a simple chronicling of political personalities and events which are as often symptoms as shapers of most historical periods. Tingley ventures into the cultural, social, agricultural, industrial, as well as political arenas of Illinois life during the first three decades of this century.” -Book jacket

An Outline for the Study of Illinois State History

With a reference list from the books, and other historical material in the Illinois State Historical Library, Springfield, Illinois

Weber, Jessie Palmer, comp.
Illinois State Historical Library 1905       

The detailed outline is followed by a reference list that appears to contain hundreds of sources for Illinois history.

You can find more works like these at our other ‘General History’ pages.

Great Lakes General History

Indiana General History

Michigan General History

Ohio General History

Wisconsin General History


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