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What IS a primary source in History?
Often referred to as "first hand" accounts or "original" records, primary sources are the evidence historians use to build interpretations of the past.
Most primary sources are created at the time an historical event occurred, while others, such as autobiographies, are produced long after the events they describe.
Here are some examples:
For more recent historical topics (20th century topics), documentaries and personal interviews can serve as excellent primary sources. Remember, in a primary source the person speaking on the event or topic must have experienced it directly themselves.
Academic Video Online (AVON)
Search AVON for documentaries, interviews, newsreels, and other primary sources.
Docuseek streams essential independent, social-issue and environmental films. We have a collection of over 20 titles here.
The Library of Congress provides some examples of citing various primary source types from their collections:
Published Primary Source Collections
Depending on the topic, you may find a collection of historical primary sources that have been translated into English and published as a recent book. Keep in mind that these collections may also include introductions, commentaries, and other secondary sources as well.
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts
Publication Date: 2005
This volume contains the complete translation of the Pyramid Texts, including new texts recently discovered and published. It is the first translation that presents the texts in the order in which they were meant to be read in each of the original sources.
Medieval Popular Religion: 1000-1500
Publication Date: 2007
Brings together a unique collection of 82 sources that casts light on the beliefs and practices of ordinary Christians in the Middle Ages. Documents new to this edition include a new translation of the English peasant Thurkill's 13th century vision of hell, and a complete translation of a 13th century handbook for administering confessions.
Voices from Shanghai
Publication Date: 2008
A remarkable collection of the letters, diary entries, poems, and short stories composed by Jewish refugees who fled Europe to Shanghai when Hitler came to power.
Tips for searching for primary sources
Add the primary source type as a keyword in your search. It may look like this:
"nuclear arms" sources
slavery "personal narratives"
Lyndon Johnson diaries
Ancient greek military maps
"World War II" "primary sources"
You can see there are "" marks around phrases or specific names of events.
Places to find primary sources IN Assumption's Library
There is no single comprehensive database of primary sources, you may need to explore different strategies for locating resources. Here are some databases that do have primary sources as part of their holdings:
Use the "" for known events or phrases. Add the type of primary source as a keyword.
This has all full text scholarly journals including some volumes dating back to the 19th century.
World History In Context
This does have a "primary source" link to show what they do have, easily. But often it's just a title, and not the actual text or item. Use this to search for the item elsewhere.
Places to find Primary Sources OUTSIDE the library
Contains millions of texts, maps, art, audio files, news reels, television, movies that have been digitized and are available for free.
"The Avalon Project will mount digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government."
Library of Congress Digital Collections
This is the landing page for several collections, including historical maps, papers, artwork, books, music, and so much more. Wonderful starting place.
Huge collection of links to digitized Western European documents and images dating from prehistoric times to the present. Arranged by country and then chronologically.
Hanover Historical Texts Collection
Presents texts from ancient to modern times. Material touches on the Crusaders, Italian Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, French Revolution, and many other topics.
ArtStor Public Collections
Approximately 1 million freely accessible images, videos, documents, and audio files free to use for research and educational purposes.
Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection
Maps produced by CIA - (held by University of Texas at Austin)
A collection of fascinating maps, including city, country, political, land, and population.
Ancient History Sourcebook
Fantastic resource for primary sources and vast coverage of history.