When is “Civilization” used as a subject heading under places, and when is “History” used?
The Library of Congress offers the following explanation:
Civilization is related closely to other concepts such as culture, history, and social history, but places particular emphasis on cultural advances, including the arts, learning and scholarship, intellectual life, manners and customs, the development and growth of religion, advances in science and technology, etc. Culture is a term used by social scientists to describe a people’s whole way of life, whether simple or complex, consisting of learned ways of acting, feeling, and thinking. History is the chronological account of specific events, emphasizing political, diplomatic, military, and economic developments.
So in general, one would use “Civilization” when the book was more concerned with the culture and/or intellectual life of the place in the past. One would use “History” when dealing with politics and economics.
However, because many books cover both the “civilization” and “history” of a place, the Library of Congress states the following:
Because of the close relationship between civilization and history, it is sometimes difficult to decide whether subject headings for history or civilization should be assigned to a particular work. In borderline cases, let the intention of the author and the terminology of the text be the guide in determining which type of heading to assign.
Therefore, if the title is “The Civilization of Holland” and the book covers both cultural and historical aspects of Holland’s past, a cataloger would probably assign the subject heading “Holland – Civilization” simply because of the title.
Please note that the following subdivisions are also available:
- Civilization — 16th century AND History – 16th century
- Civilization – 17th century AND History – 17th century
- Civilization – 18th century AND History – 18th century
- Civilization – 19th century AND History – 19th century
- Civilization – 20th century AND History – 20th century
- Civilization – 21st century AND History – 21st century
These subdivisions are only used when other, more specific time period subdivisions are not already established in the Library of Congress subject headings (i.e. “United States–History, 1797-1801” or “France–Civilization, 1901-1945)
Finally, there are also subject headings such as “Culture,” “Civilization,” “Civilization, Ancient,” etc. These subject headings usually do not subdivide geographically and are used for books that cover culture or civilization in general, or the culture/civilization of many places.