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History: Primary Sources

Primary vs. Secondary Sources (History Videos)

Using Primary Sources for History Assignments

Below are some examples of primary source types that work particularly well with history classes. Remember that all of these would be from the time period being studied:

  • Diaries and journals
  • Letters and memos
  • Oral History
  • Film
  • Speeches and interviews
  • Government documents such as laws, court cases, legislative proceedings, etc.
  • Newspapers, pamphlets, advertisements
  • Autobiography and memoir
  • Photographs
  • Art and literary works
  • Maps
  • Songs & Music

Recommended Web Sites for Finding and Using Historical Primary Sources

Questions to Ask Yourself About Primary Sources

  • When and where was it created?
  • Who created it, and for what purpose?
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • What was happening during the time period in which it was created?
  • What biases do you see?
  • What insight does it give you on the time period or historical event being studied? How does it reflect the time in which it was produced?

Featured Books and Tips for Finding More Books

When searching our catalog for books and media, combine a relevant search term with a "primary source" term, such as diaries, correspondence, personal narratives, or speeches: