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U.S. History: Primary Sources from the U.S. Government

Library and internet resources for for research on U.S. history.

Primary Sources from the U.S. Government

U.S. Government documents provide a rich source for primary source material for the study of U.S. history. Falling into the broad category of anything published or created by a government entity, these cover almost every subject and date from the origins of our country to the present day. To get an overview of the difference departments and agencies of the U.S. Government throughout history and to see the major publications of each agency, refer to the Guide to U.S. Publications (Z1223.Z7 A574) in the reference section on the 5th floor of Pius Library.

Public Papers of the Presidents

The Public Papers of the Presidents have been published for every president since Herbert Hoover in 1929. The volumes contain a compilation of speeches, press conferences, public messages, etc. Executive orders and proclamations were not regularly included until 1977 (beginning with the Jimmy Carter administration), the sources below include an archive of these documents.

Foreign Relations of the United States - Sensitive Documents

Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) contains important diplomatic and intelligence communications between U.S. officials and between the U.S. and other countries. It is considered the official record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions, but are generally published about 30-35 years after events because of the sensitive nature of the documents included. FRUS volumes currently cover 1861-1980.

Statistical Sources

These sources include statistics on people living in the United States, or immigrating to the United States. Older immigration statistics can be found in the annual reports of the Immigration and Naturalization Services (or before 1933, the Bureau of Immigration). Copies of most of these can be found digitized in Hathi Trust or in print in the SLU Libraries

Congressional Documents

Executive Branch Documents - Digitized

You will be able to find Annual Reports and other primary executive branch publications in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, but as you delve deeper into your research, you will want to explore additional publications. There are many projects to digitize Executive Branch Documents. The resources below will point you to some of the best places to start looking. See the "Other Historical Government Documents" box to the right for tips on finding print documents. And don't forget to talk to your librarian!

Declassified Documents & FOIA Reading Rooms

The National Archives (NARA)

There are many records and papers produced by agencies that never get released. They are not actually classified they are just considered internal departmental documents and are therefore not published. Records like these as well as other published and classified documents eventually end up at NARA. Although NARA puts select material online, there is even more material that is available only on microfiche or at one of the National Archives locations. 

Military, Aerospace & Nuclear History

Government Information Librarian

Rebecca Hyde's picture
Rebecca Hyde
Contact:
Pius XII Memorial Library
Room 202H
314-384-9757 (Phone # while working remotely)

Other Historical Government Documents

Many Government Documents from the last 20 years and frequently used historical documents can be found in the Libraries Catalog just like other books. We have many additional documents dating back to the 1860s that are not included in the catalog. They are located at the off campus Locust Street Library Facility and can be viewed by appointment, or sent by request to Pius Library. Contact Rebecca Hyde for more details. The resources below can help you identify documents we may have.

Guides with Additional Resources

Library of Congress