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HIST 027: Living with Total War: Europe, 1912-1923 (SC)

History 027: Living with Total War, Europe, 1912-1923 - Spring 2017 - Weinberg

Primary Sources: where to look and how to find them

There is no single comprehensive place to find primary sources, but there are various interesting websites, books, and other resources you can use to explore history through primary sources. Each page linked below contains some recommendations likely to be of interest to students in History 27.

Primary Sources Available Online

Digital collections focusing on World War I

Edited Collections of Primary Sources

Use Tripod to find letters, personal narratives, and other sources -- edited collections (in books)

Historical Newspapers & Periodicals

Explore databases with historical news and other publications

What are Primary Sources?

primary colored housesPrimary sources provide firsthand accounts of events or conditions during a particular period.
Usually, these are created or recorded contemporaneously by participants or observers.

Examples of primary sources:

  • Diaries and journals (written documents)
  • Photographs, films, advertisements (multimedia sources) 
  • Costumes, art, buildings (physical artifacts)

Learn more:  What are primary sources?

What kinds of primary sources will you use?

Primary sources can be split into 2 broad categories:

  • Sources in their original form
  • Sources that have been reproduced in some way

Working with primary sources in their original form often means visiting an institution dedicated to preserving those sources, such as an archive or a special collections library. --- for example: Urban Archives (at Temple University)

When working with primary sources that have been reproduced, you might read scanned copies of historical newspapers using an online database, or consult a print book from McCabe consisting of transcribed letters between historical figures.

Working with reproductions of sources:

When working with reproductions of primary sources, it's important to be aware of the fact that you're working with a reproduction. A digital scan of a letter gives you more detail than a transcription, but even a high-quality full-color scan is still different than a physical paper letter. Likewise, an edited collection of letters reflects editorial decision-making. These considerations don't mean that a scanned letter or an edited collection necessarily constitutes a "bad" source - just that these factors are worth keeping in mind as you analyze your sources.