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LC Research & Presentation

Primary Sources Original Wiki

CCHS Learning Commons - Primary Sources

Primary Sources

Table of Contents

A primary source is a source created by people who actually saw or participated in an event and recorded that event or their reactions to it immediately after the event.There are three types of resources used in research: primary sources, secondary sources, and finding tools.
I. Primary Sources
A primary source is a document, speech, or other sort of evidence written, created or otherwise produced during the time under study. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event. Examples include:
  • Original documents: autobiographies, diaries, e-mail, interviews, letters, minutes, news film footage, official records, photographs, raw research data, speeches
  • Creative works: art, drama, films, music, novels, poetry
  • Relics or artifacts: buildings, clothing, DNA, furniture, jewelry, pottery
II. Secondary Sources
Secondary sources provide interpretation and analysis of primary sources.
Secondary sources are one step removed from the original event or "horse's mouth."
III. Finding Sources
Finding sources are research tools that lead to primary or secondary sources. Developed by subject experts, they provide quality filters unavailable via the Internet's search engines.
Source: What is a Primary Source

Resources for teachers:
Library of Congress - Using Primary Sources - This is an excellent guide for teachers using primary sources in the classroom.
The National Archives - Artifact evaluation worksheets - The following document analysis worksheets were designed and developed by the Education Staff of the National Archives and Records Administration. Analysis for diverse primary sources such as diaries, photographs, posters, handcrafts, etc.
Using Historical Sources - Guidelines in evaluating primary sources.
DocsTeach - Created for teachers by the National Archives, DocsTeach has ready-to-use tools for teaching with documents in the classroom using more than 3,000 documents selected from the archives.

Where to start?
The CCHS Library database page has accurate, scholarly resources. This is where you should begin your research process.
CCHS Database Resources > InfoTrac > History Resource Center
CCHS Library Books - Online catalog. Many primary source titles available.
Feel free to ask the librarians for help. That is why we are there!

Primary Source Media Portal
  Digital Public Library of America -
The vision of a national digital library has been circulating among librarians, scholars, educators, and private industry representatives since the early 1990s. Efforts led by a range of organizations, including the Library of Congress, HathiTrust, and the Internet Archive, have successfully built resources that provide books, images, historic records, and audiovisual materials to anyone with Internet access. Many universities, public libraries, and other public-spirited organizations have digitized materials, but these digital collections often exist in silos. The DPLA brings these different viewpoints, experiences, and collections together in a single platform and portal, providing open and coherent access to our society’s digitized cultural heritage.

Digital Media Repository - The Digital Media Repository provides online access to a variety of primary source materials, including photographs, oral history interviews, artwork, video and film footage, cartographic resources, architectural drawings, publications, and 3-dimensional objects.

FedFlix - From the Federal Internet Archive arethe best movies of the United States Government, from training films to history, from national parks to the U.S. Fire Academy and the Postal Inspectors. All of these fine flix are available for reuse without any restrictions whatsoever.

U.S. History
The Vault -The FBI has opened it's digital archive!
"The Vault is our new electronic reading room, containing more than 3,000 documents that have been scanned from paper into digital copies so you can read them in the comfort of your home or office."
Searchable and far-ranging, this archive will be a rich resource for historical research using primary sources.

American Memory Collection - American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers - This site allows you to search and view newspaper pages from 1880-1922 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present.

EDSITEment - The Best of the Humanities on the Web from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Very rich source of links, photos and additional materials.

National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) - Historical documents, images and more.

POTUS(Presidents of the United States) - Historical documents, audio and video files, election results and more.

CIA Freedom of Information Act - The CIA has established this site to provide the public with an overview of access to CIA information, including electronic access to previously released documents. Because of CIA's need to comply with the national security laws of the United States, some documents or parts of documents cannot be released to the public.

Access GPO (U.S. Government Printing Office) - Core documents of U.S. Democracy.

From Revolution to Reconstruction and What Happened Afterwards - An index on the primary sources and transcripts.

Amdocs - Documents for the study of American history.

Archiving Early America - Primary source material from the 18th century.

Chronology of U.S. Historical Documents

Source Documents in American History

American Rhetoric - Database of and index to 5000+ full text, audio and video versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, other recorded media events, and a declaration or two.

Milestone Documents - Source for primary source and historic texts. Excellent for American history.

100 Milestone Documents of American History

Presidential Libraries - National Archive portal for all U.S. Presidential Libraries.

Transatlantic Slave Trade
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database - Information on almost 35,000 slaving voyages that forcibly embarked over 100 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Digital Library of American Slavery - The Digital Library offers a searchable database of detailed personal information about slaves, slaveholders, and free people of color. Designed as a tool for scholars, historians, teachers, students, genealogists, and interested citizens, the site provides access to information gathered and analyzed over an eighteen-year period from petitions to southern legislatures and country courts filed between 1775 and 1867 in the fifteen slaveholding states in the United States and the District of Columbia.

Voyages Database - The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database comprises nearly 35,000 individual slaving expeditions between 1514 and 1866. Records of the voyages have been found in archives and libraries throughout the Atlantic world. They provide information about vessels, enslaved peoples, slave traders and owners, and trading routes. A variable (Source) cites the records for each voyage in the database. Other variables enable users to search for information about a particular voyage or group of voyages. The website provides full interactive capability to analyze the data and report results in the form of statistical tables, graphs, maps, or on a timeline.

Excerpts from Slave Narratives - First hand narratives of people directly involved in the slave trade as slavers, shipping agents, and the enslaved.

West African Tribes and Empires - This resource is recommended for students studying the transatlantic slave trade in CCHS World Civilization classes.

African People and Culture - This resource is recommended for students studying the transatlantic slave trade in CCHS World Civilization classes.

Civilizations in Africa - Songhai Tribe - This resource is recommended for students studying the transatlantic slave trade in CCHS World Civilization classes.

The Kingdom of Mali - This resource is recommended for students studying the transatlantic slave trade in CCHS World Civilization classes.

The Slave Rebellion Website - Currently under-development (3.18.10), this site is worth checking as it covers the under-documented examples of enslaved Africans fighting for freedom. There are excellent primary sources, maps, a population database and slave records.

Civil War
The Civil War - Watch the Civil War unfold on the pages of Original Harper's Weekly Newspapers. Harper's Weekly was the most popular newspaper during the Civil War, and it featured stunning illustrations, and in depth stories on all the important people and events of the war. Presently 1861 through 1864 are completed, and the 1865 issues through May are complete.

Civil War Women - Diaries, letters, photographs, prints.

American Civil War Resources - Diaries, letters, papers.

Hospital Sketches: An Army Nurse's True Account of her Experiences During the Civil War, by Louisa Alcott. This links to the Google ebook of this primary source account of Alcott's experiences.


Immigration Challenges for New Americans - From the Library of Congress. The resources in this primary source set are intended for classroom use. If your use will be beyond a single classroom, please review the copyright and fair use guidelines.

Women's Sufferage

Women's Sufferage - Primary source material from the Library of Congress.

World War I

World War I Document Archive - Treaties, official papers, diaries, remembrances.

World War I Memoirs and Remembrances

WikiSource WWI - A collection of various texts closely associated with World War I. Very thorough with European perspective.

BBC History - WWI - The causes, events and people of the conflict dubbed the 'war to end all wars'. Media rich content.

WWI Virtual Trench Tour - This virtual tour doesn't really qualify as a primary source, but it is interesting and has good links to legitimate primary sources.

BBC - World War I - Six films that show students artifacts and images of a British soldier's life during WWI. The films are sequenced beginning with recruitment continuing on to life in the trenches and ending with information about injuries and shell shock.

Propaganda Postcards of the Great War - The site features a collection of war-themed postal cards produced during World War 1 (1914 - 1919). Some 1,400 cards are displayed in an organized fashion. The cards are mementos of a world at war during the second decade of the 20th century.

First World War Poetry Digital Archive -
The First World War Poetry Digital Archive is an online repository of over 7000 items of text, images, audio, and video for teaching, learning, and research. The heart of the archive consists of collections of highly valued primary material from major poets of the period, including Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Robert Graves, Vera Brittain, and Edward Thomas. This is supplemented by a comprehensive range of multimedia artefacts from the Imperial War Museum, a separate archive of over 6,500 items contributed by the general public, and a set of specially developed educational resources. These educational resources include an exciting new exhibition in the three-dimensional virtual world Second Life. Freely available to the public as well as the educational community, the First World War Poetry Digital Archive is a significant resource for studying the First World War and the literature it inspired.

World War II
Navy Department Communiques - and Pertinent Press Releases

National Archive World War II Records

World War II Stories: Veterans tell stories to Tuscon youth - Most high school students will tell you that history is boring. Reading a list of dates and facts can be a drag and often seem detached from their lives. Sitting down with someone who has actually lived through a major historical event — like World War II — and hearing what he or she experienced though, is a different story. That’s what this website is all about: sharing stories and making connections

Powers of Persuasion - Poster Art from WWII

German Propaganda Archive - Der Giftpilz, the German word for toadstool, was a publication of Julius Streicher's publishing house. It was aimed particularly at kids, and was sometimes used in the schools. In each case, the caption under the picture is translated to the right. In several cases, there is a link to a translation of the story that accompanied the picture.

Vietnam War

Vietnam Online - Primary sources from PBS: American Experience.

Documents Relating to American Foreign Policy in Vietnam

Teaching with Documents: The war in Vietnam - a story in photographs - The war in Vietnam has been described as the war America watched from their living rooms. Images of combat and American GIs were projected through our TV screens and across our newspapers daily. During the war in Vietnam, the American military gave the press unprecedented freedom of access to combat zones. This allowed newspaper reporters and photographers and television crews to document a war involving American sons and daughters on the other side of the world. This willingness to allow documentation of the war was also extended to the military's own photographers. This is an extensive archive of primary source material.

Vietnam 35 Years Later - April 30th, 2010, was the 35th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, and last Tuesday, May 4th, 2010, was the 40th anniversary of the shooting of protesting students at Kent State University. The Vietnam War and America's involvement in it affected the lives of millions for well over a decade, exacting a massive human cost with millions of deaths and countless injuries - both physical and mental - that plague many of those involved to this day. United States military involvement and troop strength grew rapidly after 1964 - at its highest level in 1968, with over 500,000 troops on the ground. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. now bears the engraved names of 58,267 of those troops. It's nearly impossible to encapsulate an event of such scale in a handful of photographs, but here, 35 years after the end of the conflict, is my attempt. Alan Taylor.

The Cold War
Making the History of 1989 - The Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.


Afghan War

WikiLeaks: Afghan War Diaries - 25th July 2010 5:00 PM EST WikiLeaks has released a document set called the Afghan War Diary, an extraordinary compendium of over 91,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010. The reports, while written by soldiers and intelligence officers, and mainly describing lethal military actions involving the United States military, also include intelligence information, reports of meetings with political figures, and related details.

African - Americans

African American Perspectives - Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection, 1818 - 1907 (Library of Congress).

Digital Harlem - Everyday life 1915 - 1930

African-American Women's History - Online archival collection.

Images of African-Americans From the 19th Century - A selection of Visual Resources

Documents of Social Justice

Veterans Stories: Struggles for Participation - Primary sources from the Library of Congress documenting the struggle for equality in the armed services. Letters, audio and video recordings from past conflicts.
A document history of social justice, civil rights, equity, peace, and activism. Uncover the history of anti-racism, suffrage, the gay rights movement, labor activism, and other movements through historic speeches, song lyrics, poetry, essays, and other documentary artifacts related to social justice.


Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust - Documents

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - This resource contains primary source documents and survivor testimonials from the holocaust and other genocide events.

World History

Intute - Intute: History, brought to you by a national team of subject specialists from universities across the UK. We find and review the very best web resources to help you with your studies and research. This is an excellent collection of web resources that include lot of primary sources.

European History

Tha Magna Carta - The British Library

EurAtlas Historical Maps - Collections of maps of Europe and the Middle East in high resolution and organized by centuries. Also has a video on Europe since Roman times.

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

AP European History Web Links Page

British Universities Film & Video Council - The London Broadcasting Company / Independent Radio News audio archive consists of 7,000 reel-to-reel tapes in a collection that runs from 1973 to the mid-1990s. It is the most important commercial radio archive in the UK and provides a unique audio history of the period.

Eurodocs - Primary historical documents from Western Europe antiquity to present.

Turning the Pages - Documents from the British Museum

Medieval Times

Internet Medieval Sourcebook

Political Cartoons

Dr. Seuss Went to War - A catalog of political cartoons.

Herblock's History - Political Cartoons from the Crash to the Millennium

World War I Politcal Cartoons

Constitutions of the World
International Constitutional Law
International Constitutional Law (ICL) provides English translations of and other textual material related to constitutional documents. It cross-references those documents for quick comparison of constitutional provisions.

Springfield Township HS Library - Primary Source Pathfinder
(Thank you for sharing, Joyce Valenza)

Last updated 10.18.10
Robin Cicchetti