What are Primary Sources in History
Primary sources are the pieces of evidence that historians analyze and interpret to support their historical arguments.
Depending on your topic, almost any kind of material can be used as a primary source as long as it was created during the time period that you are researching or was created by someone who participated, as in the case of oral histories or memoirs.
Letters, Diaries, Scientific Data, Interviews, Photographs, Maps, Videos, Manuscripts, Newspapers, Speeches, Oral Histories, Artifacts, Government Documents, Art, Ephemera, Broadsides, Memoirs, Songs, and More!
How to Access Primary Sources
Primary sources are shared or made available in three main ways:
Using Original Materials
To work with original materials, you'll need to visit in person. For archives located at a distance, you can also try making photocopy requests (which often have associated fees.)
Searching Digitized Materials
Identify relevant online databases from the library or search in free online repositories.
Finding Published Collections
Before digitization, accessing published document collections from libraries was a key way to use primary materials held in distant locations without needing to travel. It is often still the easiest way to find reproductions, transcriptions, and translations of very old texts or texts in a foreign language.
Other Subject or Keyword terms to identify books with primary materials:
|caricatures and cartoons||personal narratives|
|case studies||pictorial works|
|description and travel||songs and music|