There are many handbooks, dictionaries, and encyclopedias that provide basic information for historical studies. If you are selecting a topic, build a framework by consulting definitions or a quick overview found in these resources and then focus on your topic by searching for more specific information.
The Oxford History of the British Empire is a multi-volume seeking to understand the end of Empire in relation to its beginning, the meaning of British imperialism for the ruled as well as for the rulers, and the significance of the British Empire as a theme in world history. It's useful for background and contextual information and has an excellent bibliography.
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