As the history of science has moved beyond strict intellectual history, our work has gotten more and more interdisciplinary. At the same time, because we are in one of the few independent history of science departments in the country, even our colleagues on the other side of Bascom Hill can sometimes seem like they're from another world. When beginning work on a new project, you inevitably realize that other subdisciplines of history likely have valuable contributions to offer. But catching up on decades of historiography in a field that impinges on your work takes time and hard work. And especially for those of us who come from backgrounds other than history, figuring out how to start can be bewildering.
Probably the most important thing to do is ask a friend in the "regular ol' " History Department for suggestions about what to read and who to talk to. Syllabi and textbooks from survey courses can also point you in the right direction.
I just stumbled upon a useful source, though, that can help make tracking down and understanding unfamiliar historiographies just a little bit easier: The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing. Trying to decide whether it's more correct to say that your work will be relevant to "diplomatic historians" or to "historians of international relations"? Want to know who the most important authors in legal history are? Wonder what the heck Arnold Toynbee argued, anyway? This is the place to go.
Now, I obviously haven't read the whole thing, so I can't say whether every article is spot-on, but this is definitely a resource to add to your toolkit when venturing into new areas of history (especially if you find yourself suspicious of Wikipedia's handling of the topic). Unfortunately, our library system does not have it in electronic form, and only part of Volume 1 is available at Google Books.
While we're on the subject, how have you approached the problem of familiarizing yourself with relevant historical subdisciplines? Any tips to share or frustrations to vent?
(P.S. I'm hoping we can get more vigorous discussion going in the comments section of this blog, though maybe the low volume is just a result of the quality of our brownbag and happy hour conversations!)