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Simpson | Stafford | Special Collections

GEOG 410 Revanchist City/Rebel City: Primary Sources: History

Using Primary Sources

Primary sources "include all materials produced by people. They include obvious sources like diaries, letters, speeches, government documents, contemporary publications, laws, police and court records, maps, newspapers, and photographs.

"Remember, however, that there are other primary sources too: public opinion polls, telephone directories, coins, inscriptions, advertisements, business records, works of art, city directories, poetry, music, buildings, statues, organizational minutes, railroad schedules, birth, marriage, and death records, novels, political debates, films, furniture, and tombstones. This list is far from exhaustive."  (From the UMW History and American Studies' Primary Sources web page.)

Citing Your Sources

While writing research papers, you may need to:

  List your sources in bibliographies or works cited, and

♦  Provide either footnotes or endnotes.

Here's a useful guide: 

Navigation Menu

When looking for primary sources related to any of the following topics, either click on these links or scroll down for reference books found on the first floor of Simpson Library:

Primary Sources (General)

Primary Sources (United States)

Primary Sources (Europe)

Primary Sources (World)

Primary Sources (Legal)

Primary Sources (Wars)

Newspaper Articles & News Archives

Periodicals

 Note: A volume (usually the last) of many subject encyclopedia sets is frequently devoted to significant documents and related primary sources. See also the bibliographies / notes in books and journal articles. These references often include primary as well as secondary materials.

A subject heading in the Library's online catalog with the subdivision "sources" will pick up primary sources on that subject (e.g., "Germany--History--1933-1945--Sources"). Using a keyword search, combine your topic with "sources." For first-person accounts, try "personal narratives." With people's names you can use "diaries" and "correspondence." Other terms are "interviews" and "archival resources." For an excellent, entertaining article on subdivisions and how researchers can "finesse their keyword searches," see "Amazing, Magic Searches!" (by Becky Kornegay, Heidi Buchanan, and Hiddy Morgan), published in the November 1, 2005, issue of Library Journal. See also the subject headings and subdivisions handout on the Class Handouts page.

Primary Sources (General)

Includes "digital documents relevant to the fields of law, history, economics, politics, diplomacy, and government" from ancient times to the present.

Dictionary of Historic Documents
REFB D 9 .D525 2003

The University of Delaware's gateway to various collections of primary sources.

See also Digital Librarian.  "A librarian's choice of the best of the Web."

Part of the eHistory page at Ohio State University. Includes letters, historical texts, documents, and oral histories.

"History through the eyes of those who lived it." Covers the ancient world to the present.

Includes recordings of speeches, oral history interviews, performances, and lectures. See especially the gallery for U.S. Presidents.

Historic Documents
REFB E 839.5 .H57

The History Highway: A 21st Century Guide to Internet Resources
REFB D 16.255 .C65 H58 2006

A massive collection that includes web pages organized by century, state and region, maps, and newspapers.

An annotated resource list maintained by librarians at the Internet Public Library.

MasterFile Premier (coverage varies)
Furnishes full-text coverage of thousands of periodicals, reference books, biographies, and primary source documents. Also contains an image collection.

Provides a gateway for locating archival and manuscript collections.

A "selective list of websites" maintained by the library at the University of California at Berkeley. See also the library's guide to Primary Sources.

Provides full-text and full-image articles for the New York Times (1851 to within the last several years) the Washington Post (1877 to 1991), and the Chicago Tribune (1849-1987). Users can search the newspapers separately or together.

"A listing of over 5000 websites describing holdings of manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photographs, and other primary sources for the research scholar."

A link at the bottom directs users to "online primary sources by region." Part of the multi-section Resources website maintained by the UMW History Department.

A lengthy list, organized by topic.  Maintained by The World Wide Web Virtual Library.

Note: See also the bibliographies / notes in your various resources (both print and online). These references often include primary as well as secondary material. 

Primary Sources (United States)

Accessible Archives (coverage varies)
Provides access to the Virginia Gazette (1736-1780), the South Carolina Gazette (1732-1780), the Pennsylvania Gazette (1728-1800), Godey's Lady's Book (1830-1898), the Liberator (1831-1865), and assorted other publications, including Civil War-era newspapers, 19th-century African American newspapers, and American county histories (to 1900).

Covers 800 to date.

American Decades: Primary Sources
REFB E 169.12 .A471977

American Diaries
REFB CT 214 .A7x 1983

This marvelous resource features collections of digitized primary sources and cultural documents.

Includes "digital documents relevant to the fields of law, history, economics, politics, diplomacy, and government" from ancient times to the present.

Provides access to the Brooklyn, New York, Daily Eagle newspaper.

Accesses newspaper pages from 1860-1922. This site also provides bibliographic information (name changes, publication runs, etc.) for American newspapers published from 1690 to date.

Covers the Magna Carta (1215) to date.

Conflicts in American History: A Documentary Encyclopedia
REFB E 174 .C655 2010

Includes a U.S. history textbook, annotated documents and other primary sources, essays, oral histories, maps, timelines, and reference resources of annotated websites, chronologies, and glossaries.

Documents of American History
REFB E 173 .C66 1973c

Part of the eHistory page at Ohio State University. Includes letters, historical texts, documents, and oral histories.

Encyclopedia of American Historical Documents
REFB E 173 .E54 2004

Exploring the American West Using Online Primary Sources

"History through the eyes of those who lived it." Covers the ancient world to the present.

Provides invaluable primary documents with its "balanced explanations of the most contentious issues in American history."

Provides excerpts of diaries held in the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Provides data from 1790 to 1960 from historical volumes of the U.S. Census of Population and Housing.

“Serves as a gateway to web resources and offers unique teaching materials, first-person primary documents, and guides to analyzing historical evidence.”

A massive collection that includes web pages organized by century, state and region, maps, and newspapers.

Provides "access to print, pictorial, and audio-visual collections and other digital services."

"A digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction."

Digitized materials from the collections of the Library of Congress.

Developed by the Historic Preservation Department at the University of Mary Washington. Enables users to search such area resources as 19th-century Fredericksburg directories, historic district codes, 18th- and 19th-century newspaper indexes, and local Mutual Assurance Policies and Censuses of Manufacturing Lists.

Virginia Historical Index
REFB F 221 .S93
Indexes material relating to Virginia and Virginians in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (1893-1930), the William and Mary Quarterly / William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine (1892-1919, 1921-1930), Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine (1919-1929), Virginia Historical Register and Literary Advertiser (1848-1853), the Lower Norfolk County Virginia Antiquary (1895-1906), Heming's Statutes at Large (1619-1792), Calendar of Virginia State Papers (1652-1869).

The Library of Virginia, the state archives and reference library, "maintains vast and varied collections of print materials, manuscripts, archival records, newspapers, photographs and ephemera, maps and atlases, rare books, and fine art that tell the history of the commonwealth and its people."  See also the link to its newer digital collections, DigiTool.

Sources are arranged by subjects, historical topics, and chronological periods. Maintained by The World Wide Web Virtual Library.

Primary Sources (Europe)

Contains "some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles."

Includes "selected transcriptions, facsimiles, and translations."

An "index of scholarly websites that offer online access to digitised primary sources on the history of Europe."  Maintained by The World Wide Web Virtual Library.

"History through the eyes of those who lived it." Covers the ancient world to the present.

A searchable database of more than 240,000 manuscripts and other primary sources about eighteenth-century London, "with a particular focus on plebeian Londoners."

Includes essays, text documents, maps, a timeline, a glossary, and other resources.

Contains the texts of almost 200,000 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.

Primary Sources (World)

Contains "maps, literature, documents, books, and other relevant material concerning the past, present, and future of historic cities."

A collection of online texts that is well organized by history period and geographic region.

A "digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form." Includes a link to the Wayback Machine, which provides access to archived versions of websites.

Full and excerpted texts of documents that address “governmental, legal, religious, and economic concerns,” as well as “women's and gender history, Islamic and Byzantine history, Jewish history, and social history.”

Presents a "diversity of source material in modern European, American, and Latin American history, as well as a significant amount of material pertinent to world cultures and global studies.” Other Internet History "Sourcebooks" focus on African History, East Asian History, Indian History, Islamic History, Jewish History, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans* History, Women's History, Global History, and History of Science.

Provides "access to print, pictorial, and audio-visual collections and other digital services."

Milestone Documents in World History
REFB D 5 .M55 2009

Includes declassified historical documents from around the world, particularly focusing on "the interrelated histories of the Cold War, Korea, and Nuclear Proliferation."

A collection of more than 200 primary sources, organized by region (a section of Women in World History).

Reviews of online primary-source archives (a section of World History Matters).

Primary Sources (Legal)

Includes "digital documents relevant to the fields of law, history, economics, politics, diplomacy, and government" from ancient times to the present.

Primary and secondary sources are included in this site's coverage of more than fifty of the most famous trials in history.

Produced by the Triangle Legal History Seminar, "a regional group of faculty and graduate students interested in legal history."  See also its home page.

Contains the texts of almost 200,000 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.

Primary Sources (Wars)

Newspaper Articles & News Archives

An extensive LibGuide produced by UMW Libraries.

Allows users to "analyze historical events . . through commercial and governmental newsreels, archival footage, public affairs footage, and important documentaries."

Features notable films of the U. S. Government. "from training films to history, from our national parks to the U.S. Fire Academy and the Postal Inspectors."

The Museum's collection "spans the history of broadcasting" and includes thousands of television programs, radio programs, and commercials.

Provides full-text and full-image articles for the New York Times (1851 to within the last several years) the Washington Post (1877 to 1991), and the Chicago Tribune (1849-1987). Users can search the newspapers separately or together.

An extensive archive of television news.  "We have been recording, preserving and providing access to television news broadcasts of the national networks since August 5, 1968."

Includes hundreds of general and specialized news websites from around the world.

This "worldwide viewing community" covers news and politics, music, entertainment, science and technology, sports, film and animation, people, and education.

Periodicals