Skip to main content

History: Primary Sources

Library and internet resources for historical research.

Primary Sources

What are primary sources? 

Primary sources are first-hand accounts of events or time periods in history. These accounts can be in the form of: 

  • diaries
  • letters
  • memoirs
  • speeches
  • interviews
  • books
  • articles (published in newspapers, magazines, and journals)
  • government publications
  • pamphlets
  • manuscripts
  • photographs
  • audio/video recordings
  • objects of material culture, art, etc.

Often times, primary sources are collected and published in book form at a later date. So, for example, you could find a collection of primary sources related to the Cold War that was published in 2012 (the collection, not the original sources). In other words, don't be thrown off when looking at publication dates! 

Where can I find primary sources?

Primary sources can be found in many different places, including:

Click the links above or hover over the Primary Sources tab at the top of the page to learn how to find primary sources using these resources. 

Research Tip

As you research your topic, make note of any primary sources you may want to find, as well as any authors or key figures who may have written a first-hand account related to your research topic. Having this information makes finding primary sources so much easier. Do yourself a favor and write this information down as you research. You'll be glad you did!