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Finding Primary Sources: Primary Sources Online

Introduction to primary sources and where to go to find them.

General Archives & Primary Source Repositories

  • AMDOCS Documents for the Study of American History  One of several sites listed here that provides full text of documents from the 15th Century on, arranged in chronological order.
  • American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library.  A rapidly growing collection of documents, photographs, sound recordings, motion pictures and maps. Some of the collections now available are: Pioneering Women; African American Perspectives; California Gold; Civil War Photographs; America in the Great Depression; and many others in the Library of Congress.
  • Avalon Project at the Yale Law School (3,000 BCE+)  Selected digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government.
  • 100 Milestone Documents  The following is a list of 100 milestone documents, compiled by the National Archives and Records Administration, and drawn primarily from its nationwide holdings. The documents chronicle United States history from 1776 to 1965.
  • Chronicling America  Millions of searchable pages from U.S. newspapers, mainly those out of copyright 95 years ago or older.
  • Core Documents of U.S. Democracy "To provide American citizens direct online access to the basic Federal Government documents that define our democratic society, a core group of current and historical Government publications is being made available for free, permanent, public access via the GPO Access service" The preceding quote from the Core Documents web page clearly delineates that this is an admirable attempt by the U.S. government to make available those documents and records it considers integral to an understanding of democracy in the United States. A comprehensive and important site.
  • Digital History This site includes: a U.S. history e-textbook; over 400 annotated documents, primary sources on slavery, Mexican American and Native American history, and U.S. political, social, and legal history; short essays on the history of film, ethnicity, private life, and technology; multimedia exhibitions, an audio archive including speeches and book talks by historians, and a visual archive with hundreds of historical maps and images. The site's Ask the HyperHistorian feature allows users to pose questions to professional historians.
  • Documenting the American South  A collection of sources on Southern history, literature and culture from the colonial period through the first decades of the 20th century. Provides access to digitized primary materials that offer Southern perspectives on American history and culture.
  • Chronology of US Historical Documents  This site from the University of Oklahoma College of Law provides U. S. Historical documents from the Magna Carta to the present.
  • Foreign Relations of the United States  This State Department web site is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001. See for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date. Online volumes available cover the Truman through Johnson administrations(1945 - 1968).
  • The Historical Text Archive The oldest and one of the most important meta-history archives.
  • History Matters: Many Pasts: "Contains almost 1,000 primary documents in text, image, and audio about the experiences of ordinary Americans throughout U.S. history. All of the documents have been screened by professional historians and are accompanied by annotations that address their larger historical significance and context. Arranged by time period, starting with the earliest documents."
  • Hypertext on American History from the colonial period until Modern Times - Documents  A collection of documents from the Magna Carta to George W. Bush's inaugural address(2001).elating to the history of the United States
  • Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930: Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930, is a web-based collection of historical materials from Harvard's libraries, archives, and museums that documents voluntary immigration to the United States from the signing of the Constitution to the onset of the Great Depression.   Concentrating heavily on the 19th century, this website includes over 400,000 pages from more than 2,200 books, pamphlets, and serials, over 9,600 pages from manuscript and archival collections, and more than 7,800 photographs.
  • Internet Modern History Sourcebook Presents a diversity of texts available on the Internet in the area of modern European history and modern Western Civilization. Designed to serve the interests of teachers and students in college survey courses in subjects such as: the Reformation; Ancien Regime; Industrial Revolution; American and French Revolutions; Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment; The World Since 1945.
  • 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.
  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) The National Archives web site includes descriptions of NARA facilities; copies of publications such as finding aids; and some Federal records regulations. The agency is working to improve access to the contents of the archives and this site should become increasingly valuable.
  • Perry-Casteneda Library Map Collection: Historical Maps of the United States. The categories used by the University of Texas map library are early inhabitants, exploration and settlement, U.S. territorial growth, later historical periods, military history, historical maps of Texas and U.S. cities, and national historic sites. There is a link to other map sites.
  • Repositories of Primary Sources  A listing of over 2700 websites describing holdings of manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photographs, and other primary sources. Coverage is worldwide.
  • Resources for the Study of International Relations and Foreign Affairs - Vincent Ferraro site: An excellent comprehensive site covering US international relations and foreign affairs during the Twentieth Century. Click on the Documents internal link to go directly to that section.
  • Document Library  a list of letters, speeches, documents, web sites, books, and articles on significant people and events in American political thought and history. Rather than being a comprehensive list of available resources, it is meant to be a list of the best resources available on the given subject.  Covers the Colonial period to the Modern era ( up to selected addresses of George W. Bush.)
  • US Congressional Documents: A Century of Lawmaking, 1774 - 1875: One of the major collections in the American Memory website, this invaluable (but hard to find) site includes all major congressional documents for the country's first century. The four main categories are: The Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention; Journals of Congress; Debates of Congress; and States and Documents.


This page is used with the permission of its creator, Ed Oetting from Arizona State University Libraries.

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