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What are Primary Sources?
A primary source is a document or a physical object that was written or created during the time under study by witnesses who experienced the event or condition first-hand.
Primary sources are the raw materials of history and include items such as diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, official records, autobiographies. Primary sources can also include creative works (poetry, drama, novels, art) or relics and artifacts (pottery, clothing, buildings, furniture).
Foundation tablet Nanaia Louvre (Wikimedia Commons)
What is a secondary source?
Secondary sources interpret and analyze primary sources and are one or more steps removed from the event that is being reported. Examples include journal articles, which interpret or review previous findings; textbooks, criticisms; encyclopedias; commentaries.
Finding Historical Information on the Web
Now is a terrific time to be researching history because more and more content from special collections and archives is now being made available on the web in digital format.
British History Online
British History Online is the digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles.
Online sources for European History
European History Primary Sources
EHPS contains the major national digital libraries and many smaller series of e-sources and smaller digitization projects in Europe. It thus reflects to a considerable extent the current state of digitization of historical source materials in Europe, as well as those digitized outside Europe pertaining to its history.
Database of more than 2 million digitized images, texts, videos and sounds from European museums and other cultural and historical institutions
Internet Modern History Sourcebook
An Internet primary sourcebook, specializing in American and European history.
The National Archives
The official archive of the UK government
Calvin College German Propaganda Archive
This excellent website includes visual and textual forms of propaganda from both the National Socialist and the Communist East German dictatorships. It will be useful for students researching Nazi German, the German Democratic Republic, communism, or the Cold War.
First World War
Within this site one can view a timeline of events, primary documents including diaries and memoirs, and propaganda posters. This site also includes other useful information about individual battles and descriptions of the western front as it is today.
German Federal Archive Digital Image Collection
The Bundesarchiv, or Federal Archive, has digitized many historical images and posters. Students can search by topic or time period for images. While the initial page has been translated into English, some German language skills will be useful here as you explore the database. Not all links on this website are available in both English and German. Images from the Holocaust, World War Two, and other periods of German history can be found here.
German Historical Institute
This website contains maps, images, and textual primary sources translated into English. Eventually, sources will be available for 1871 to the Present. Currently, some time periods have not been completed. Within each time period, sources are organized thematically. It will be useful for those of you researching a topic in German history, the Holocaust, or the Cold War.
German History Documents
This website, created by Dr. Richard Weikart of California State University at Stanislaus, includes a variety of primary sources translated into English. It will be useful for students researching a variety of topics in German history.
World War I Document Archive
This archive of primary documents from World War One has been assembled by volunteers of the World War I Military History List (WWI-L). International in focus, the archive intends to present in one location primary documents concerning the Great War
20th Century Primary Resources
This guide has tons of links to resources on WWI, WW2, and more.
Montana Memory Project
The Montana Memory Project provides access to digital collections and items related to Montana's cultural heritage and government. These collections and items document the Montana experience. Many of these items are digitized copies of historic material, some items are contemporary. All serve as a resource for education, business, pleasure, and lifelong learning.
Find historical newspapers online!
Try Google's Advanced News Archive Search to find scanned images from historial newspapers.
To limit your search to a particular date range, use the "date" boxes.