Primary sources are the historical documents used by historians as
evidence. Examples of primary sources include diaries, personal
journals, government records, court records, property records,
newspaper articles, military reports, military rosters, and many other
In contrast, a secondary source is the typical history book
which may discuss a person, event or other historical topic. A good
secondary source uses primary sources as evidence.
The key to
determining whether an item may be considered to be a primary source is
to ask how soon after the event was the information recorded. This can
be a problem with an autobiography, memoir, reminiscence, etc. if the
author is working several years with only the memory of what
happened. Your history professor will disallow most or all of these as
Using Primary Sources on the Web This guide provides an overview of what primary sources are with examples. Information about finding, using, evaluating and citing them is also included. Site developed by the American Library Association.
Guidelines for Evaluating Primary Sources
Use the following criteria to determine the reliability and creditibility of the information found on Websites used in your research.
Who: Who is the author or sponsor of the website? Is that person or organization named? Is any supporting documentation available?
What: What is the mission or purpose of the website? Is it clearly articulated? What kinds of materials are on the website? Are they properly cited and acknowledged? What is the document format on the web?
Where: Where is the site located? Is there a physical address with phone number and email address for a contact person? Does the site have a .edu, .org, or .com address?
Why: Why does the site exist? Does it have a point of view or opinion? Is it pedagogical or polemic? Does it want something from you?
Credit: American Library Association, Reference and User Services Association, History Section
Coverage: 1770-1995 Maximum Concurrent Users: Unlimited It contains an archive of hundreds of digitized journals published in the arts, humanities and social sciences. ASU access includes collection 1-7.
Coverage: 1450-1910 Maximum Concurrent Users: Unlimited Defining Gender Online provides access to a collection of original documents relating to gender studies from 21 libraries and archives worldwide. Documents include ephemera, pamphlets, commonplace books, diaries, periodicals, letters, ledgers, manuscript journals, & poetry. Each section is enhanced with thematic essays by leading scholars in the field.
Coverage: 1785-2014 Maximum Concurrent Users: Unlimited The Times Digital Archive is an online, full-text facsimile of The Times; a resource for 19th – 20th Century history detailing every complete page of every issue from 1785.
Coverage: 1475-1700 Maximum Concurrent Users: Unlimited From the first book published in English in 1473 to 1700, the EEBO contains over 125,000 titles printed in the British Isles and British North America.
Maximum Concurrent Users: Unlimited It is a global digitization and publishing program focusing on primary source collections of the long nineteenth century. It provides access to rare primary sources, curated by an international team of experts, and includes important works sourced from leading libraries worldwide. It consists of monographs, newspapers, pamphlets, manuscripts, ephemera, maps, photographs, statistics, and other kinds of documents in both Western and non-Western languages.
Alternate titles: Nineteenth Century Collections Online Archive 4: European Literature, 1790-1840: The Corvey Collection, Nineteenth Century Collections Online Archive 3: British Theatre, Music, and Literature: High and Popular Culture, Nineteenth Century Collections Online Archive 2: Asia & West Diplomacy & Cultural Exchange, Nineteenth Century Collections Online Archive 1: British Politics and Society, Nineteenth Century Collections Online Archive 6: Photography: The World Through the Lens, Nineteenth Century Collections Online Archive 7: Science, Technology and Medicine, 1780-1925, Nineteenth Century Collections Online Archive 8: Nineteenth Century Collections Online: Women: Transnational Networks, Nineteenth Century Collections Online Archive 5: Europe and Africa: Commerce, Christianity, Civilization, and Conquest
Maximum Concurrent Users: Unlimited Combined, ECCO Parts I and II consists of every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom, along with thousands of important works from the Americas, between 1701 and 1800. ECCO II contains more than 6 million pages of text, more than 45,00 new titles and more than 50,00 new volumes - bringing the combined totals for ECCO I and ECCO II to more than 32 million pages of text, 180,000 titles and 205,000 volumes.
Alternate titles: 18th Century Collections Online, ECCO, Part I and II
Eighteenth Century Journals draws together material from some of the finest archives across the UK and the US representing the rich variety of the eighteenth century press. It makes available unique and extremely rare eighteenth century periodicals online conveying the eclecticism and evolution of the publishing world between 1685 and 1835. While the journals were published predominantly in the UK, there are items published in other English-speaking areas such as India.
Coverage: 1600-2000 Maximum Concurrent Users: Unlimited Women and Social Movements in the United States, Scholar's Edition documents perspectives on women's social movements from colonial times to the present. Thousands of pages of books, images, pamphlets, advice literature, training guides, scholarly essays, commentaries, bibliographies, and other ephemera that provide snapshots of women's struggle for equality over time and across regions. The resource was developed by Thomas Dublin and Kathryn Kish Sklar of the State University of New York at Binghamton in an internationally-renown website of the same name.
Online Historical Newspapers & Periodicals - North America
19th Century U.S. NewspapersSearchable database containing digital facsimile images of newspapers; presented as full page layout as well as single articles; advertisements and illustrations included. This collection includes numerous newspapers from a range of urban and rural regions throughout the U.S.; and it encompasses the entire 19th century.
African American Newspapers, 1827 - 1902 This enormous collection of African American Newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day, including the Mexican War, Presidential and Congressional addresses, Congressional abstracts, business and commodity markets, the humanities, world travel and religion.
Books, pamphlets, broadsides and other scarce printed material
Centuries of American history, literature, culture and daily life
Extensive indexing and full bibliographic information
Archive of Americana The Archive of Americana, Evans and Shaw-Shoemaker series, offers more than 100,000 early American books, pamphlets, broadsides and rare printed materials. The archives feature extensive indexing and full bibliographic information, together illuminating more than 250 years of American history, literature, culture and daily life. Unique and authoritative, these fully searchable products enable researchers to browse and explore America’s past in unprecedented ways.
Caribbean Newspapers, Series I, 1718 - 1876:Caribbean Newspapers, Series 1, 1718-1876: From the American Antiquarian Society Caribbean Newspapers, 1718-1876—the largest online collection of 18th- and 19th-century newspapers published in this region—will provide a comprehensive primary resource for studying the development of Western society and international relations within this important group of islands. This unique resource will prove essential for researching colonial history, the Atlantic slave trade, international commerce, New World slavery and U.S. relations with the region as far back as the early 18th century.
Historic Mexican and Mexican American Press Collection: The Historic Mexican and Mexican American Press collection documents and showcases historic Mexican and Mexican American publications published in Tucson, El Paso, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sonora, Mexico from the mid-1800s to the 1970s.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online 1841-1902 Brooklyn's main daily paper from 1841 to 1902. The Web site includes an introduction to the paper's history over its long tenure as Brooklyn's main daily paper as well as a timeline of the important changes to the paper's format, layout, and content organization. Chronicles the communities' history while under the reins of a host of well-regarded editors, including Walt Whitman.
Part I: A Newspaper Perspective: Contains the full text of major articles from issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.
Part II: The Soldiers’ Perspective: Provides an in-depth look at the day-to-day actions of the troops themselves primarily in the form of regimental histories.
Part III: The Generals’ Perspective: These volumes allow a look into the way the battles within the war were fought. Here the emphasis is on strategies and tactics as planned and executed by the commanding officers, with a longer-term view as opposed to daily concerns.
Part IV: A Midwestern Perspective: This collection consists of seven newspapers published in Indiana between 1855 and 1869. Thus, it provides pre-and post-Civil War information in addition to coverage of the war itself.
Early American Newspapers, Series I, 1690 - 1876: Early American Newspapers, Series 1, 1690-1876 offers 350,000 fully searchable issues from over 710 historical American newspapers. Focusing largely on the 18th and early 19th centuries, this online collection is based on Brigham’s “History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820” and provides unprecedented access to the nation’s early periods. Additionally, EAN, Series I is cross-searchable with other Archive of Americana® collections held by ASU Library.
Historical African American Newspapers Online: This LibGuide produced by Elizabeth Clarke of Marist College provides a list of historical African American Newspapers available online as part of digitization projects at libraries and historical societies as well as digitization projects done by Google.
Indianapolis Recorder, 1899-2005: What began as a two-page church bulletin by co-founders George Pheldon Stewart and William H. Porter, the Indianapolis Recorder is now one of the top African-American publications in the nation. Established in 1897, the Indianapolis Recorder focused on local people and events in Indianapolis but also reported national events.
The Lily The Lily, the first newspaper for women in the United States, was issued from 1849 until 1853 under the editorship of Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894). It had a local and national focus on both temperance and women’s rights.
Pennsylvania Gazette Collection The Pennsylvania Gazette was considered the paper of record for colonial and revolutionary America. The full text coverage spans the time from significant early eastern colonial expansion ( 1728) through the first true world war ( 1763) and then through the Revolution ( with the government centered in Philadelphia) and then including the Constitutional Convention and Washington’s two terms. Coverage continues through 1800.
The Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project, 1895 - present: The Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project makes available more than one hundred years of Jewish newspapers published in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project is composed of the Jewish Criterion (1895-1962), the American Jewish Outlook (1934-1962), the Jewish Chronicle (1962-present), and the Y-JCC series (1926-1975). Note: This site will work best on a desktop computer with an up-to-date browser. A PDF reader is required
Virginia Gazette, 1736 - 1780: The first paper published in Virginia, the Gazette is one of the most important southern newspapers for the colonial and revolutionary periods. While t here are some gaps and searching is by year, the Colonial Williamsburg digital Virginia Gazette provides online access to an important early American newspaper. In addition, there is a complementary online Index of Topics.
Access World News Access World News from NewsBank provides full-text information and perspectives from over 600 U.S. and over 500 international sources, each with its own distinctive focus offering diverse viewpoints on local, regional and world issues.
Chicago TribuneChicago Tribune (1985-present) indexes each issue thoroughly, covering not only top news stories but also the information contained on the various sections of the paper. The indexing covers not only complete bibliographic information but also companies, people, products, etc.
Ethnic NewsWatch (1960+) Full-text of ethnic, minority and native press newspapers, magazines and journals. Provides a broad diversity of perspectives and viewpoints. Represents the diversity of the American population in ways that are not seen in the mainstream media
Nexis Uni Full text of over 5,000 newspapers( including major US newspaers such as the New York Times), trade publications, legal periodicals, and professional journals.
Los Angeles Times, 1985+ This is the current editions of the LA Times back to 1985 and continues the Historical LA Times
NewsBank NewsFile CDROM : Historical Files 1980 - 1998 Provides full text access to selected articles from over 500 U. S. and Canadian newspapers, wire services, and broadcast news transcripts. NewsBank Newsfile (1996-1998) which includes full text on the CD and NewsBank Reference Services Plus (1980-1996) which provides citations to the microfiche collection of the full text articles. NOTE: Because of software requirements, this database can only be accessed from ASU Library student/public/staff workstations
Wall Street Journal(1986+) Full text access to the Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal is the financial newspaper of record. It offers in-depth coverage of national and international finance as well as first rate coverage of hard news.
19th Century UK PeriodicalsFull text collection of series 1 (New Rederships) and Series 2 (Empire) or UK periodicals from the 19th century, representating the range of nineteenth-century periodical literature of interest to historians and students of nineteenth-century literature and culture, empire, feminism, the history of the book, the creative and performing arts, sport and leisure, science and medicine, the professions, in short, of all aspects of nineteenth-century life that the press encompassed.
Economist Historical Archive, 1843-2012A searchable collection of every issue of The Economist from 1843 to present (with the exception of the last five years). Each weekly issue contains news reporting and analysis, commentary, editiorials, statistics, demographics, letters to the editor, obituaries, and historical photographs.
Godey's Lady's Book This is a full text collection of the premier 19th Century U. S. woman’s magazine, Parts I-IX 1830-1898.
HarpWeek: The Civil War Era and Reconstruction I-II (1857-1877) (1857-1877) Indexes full-text of Harper's Weekly, probably the only consistent, comprehensive, weekly chronological record of world-wide events of the late 19th century. Covers front-line Civil War reports, the re-election of Lincoln, & Reconstruction.
Krokodil Digital Archive A satirical Soviet magazine which began publishing in 1922.Useful for understanding Soviet political science, history and literature
Making of America(Cornell University); Making of America( University of Michigan) (1800-1925 ) Full text of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. Particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. This is actually two separate sites with separate resources -- one site is sponsored by The University of Michigan and the other by Cornell University.
The Modernist Journals Project The MJP is a multi-faceted project that aims to be a major resource for the study of modernism and its rise in the English-speaking world, with periodical literature as its central concern. The historical scope of the project has a chronological range of 1890 to 1922 (though the earliest journals that currently appear on the site date from 1896 and 1904), and a geographical range that extends to wherever English language periodicals were published.
Vogue Archive The Vogue Archive contains the entire run of Vogue magazine (US edition) from 1892 to the present day, reproduced in high-resolution color page images. More than 400,000 pages are included, constituting a treasure trove of the work from the greatest designers, photographers, stylists, and illustrators of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Vogue is a unique record of American and international popular culture that extends beyond fashion. The Vogue Archive is an essential primary source for the study of fashion, gender, and modern social history – past, present, and future
Women's Wear Daily Archive The Women's Wear Daily Archive provides online access to the definitive fashion and retail publication, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD). The entire archive of WWD, previously unavailable in digital form, opens up new opportunities for research. This authoritative record of how the fashion industry developed over the twentieth century provides valuable primary source material for students across the disciplines of fashion, business, and history
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