One of the best places to start research is in the Five-College Library Catalog. All books are listed by their AUTHORS, TITLES, and SUBJECTS, and you can also use the KEYWORD function to search.
KEYWORD searching is not likely to yield a complete, or completely relevant, list of locally-owned books on any particular topic, but it's a good way to start; type in a common language characterization of your topic, say "victorian prostitution", select titles from the resulting list that interest you, note which official subject headings are assigned to those titles, then click on them to do a more thorough SUBJECT search.
SUBJECT searching, as such, requires that you use the exact words or phrases libraries have chosen to describe your topic; for example, libraries list books about prostitution in Victorian England under "Prostitution -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century"; note the way the subject heading is subdivided. Ask at the Reference Desk if you're not sure what words or phrases to use.
Historical Abstracts with Full Text (1955 to present)
Scholarly literature about world history since 1450 (excluding the United States and Canada).
Women's Studies International (1972 to present)
Interdisciplinary, covers the latest scholarship in feminist research.
Standard general encyclopedia.
International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
Covers scholarship and fields in the social sciences.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The national record of men and women who have shaped British history and culture, worldwide.
Digitized entries from Oxford's Dictionaries, Companions and Encyclopedias, spanning multiple subject areas.