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*American History: Primary Sources

Guide for research in American History

Locating Different Types of Primary Sources

To access the pages with information about locating different types of primary sources, hover over the Primary Sources tab above and select a type of source or choose a type of source from the list below.

Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library has a number of excellent databases withe primary source materials, including:

  • Slavery and Anti-Slavery
  • Sunday Times (London) Digital Archive
  • Making of the Modern World

 You can sign up for a BPL ecard which will allow you to use these databases.

 

Using Primary Sources in Your Research

The nature of a research project will determine what can serve as a primary text. Literary critics will use literary works as primary texts, in order to find passages that will support their arguments about the meaning of literary works and their place in literary history. Historians will use documents like diaries, newspaper articles, letters, and personal narratives as primary texts, in order to create a fresh interpretation of an historical event.

When you are looking for primary sources, start by searching the Library Catalog. Search by an author from the time period or enter a subject in combination with any of the subject headings used to define primary sources:

Autobiographies
Correspondence
Diaries
Documents
Early works to…
Government documents
Interviews
Legal documents
Letters
Manuscripts
Memoirs
Narratives
Pamphlets
Photographs
Reminiscences
Sources
Speeches

In WorldCat, you may use any of the above strategies or limit your search to “archival materials.”

Brandeis Archives & Special Collections

Depending on the focus of your research, the University Archives & Special Collections may have relevant primary source materials. Check out their Research Guides.

Search Primary Source Collections Beyond Brandeis

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