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HU 2900: HUA Project Center Preparation: London: Find Primary Sources

Primary Sources for History

Primary sources are materials that provide firsthand testimony to a subject under investigation. Researchers often use these firsthand accounts of specific events to understand events from the viewpoint of people living during that time period.

Primary sources include documents and artifacts from the time period under study, such as:

  • letters
  • diaries
  • photographs 
  • newspaper articles
  • pamphlets
  • government records
  • songs
  • poems

Primary sources also include writings and recordings by witnesses who experienced the events or conditions being documented, such as:

  • oral histories
  • autobiographies
  • memoirs 

Primary Sources: Books at WPI

Sometimes collections of primary source documents are republished in books. To find books like these, search WPI Library Search for books about your topic and add keywords such as journals, papers, letters, documents, primary sources, documentary history, or sourcebook to your search terms. You can also look for memoirs or autobiographies to find first-hand accounts of historical events. 

Here are some examples of books containing primary sources:

Library Databases with Primary Sources

Examples of Websites with Primary Sources

To find primary sources via Google, try adding keywords like journals, papers, letters, documents, primary sources, or documentary history to your search terms. Primary sources can often be found on library, museum, and government websites. 

Here are some examples of websites that can help you find primary sources:

WPI Archives: Project Boz

Every one of Charles Dickens’s novels was published serially--that is, the novels appeared not all at once, but in parts or installments, over a space of time. Publishing his novels in serial form expanded Dickens’s readership, as more people could afford to buy fiction on the installment plan; publishers, too, liked the idea, as it allowed them to increase sales and to offer advertisements in the serial parts. And Dickens enjoyed the intimacy with his audience that serialization provided.

Project Boz began as an initiative by Gordon Library of WPI to digitize all of Charles Dickens's novels in their original serial form. Project Boz ("Boz" was Dickens's early pen name) seeks to promote a greater appreciation for Dickens by offering an online means for researchers and the general public to read, experience, and study Dickens’s works in their original 19th-century form. The project was made possible by a Library Service Technology Act grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, and with the guidance of Professor Joel J. Brattin, Honorary Curator of the Robert D. Fellman collection on Charles Dickens.

Just as Dickens's novels were published serially, so with Project Boz: the digital form of the novels will appear in parts, as the work of imaging and processing is completed.