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History: Primary Sources

Resources for History Research

Primary Sources for History

Primary Sources

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 letters, diaries, photographs, newspaper articles, and pamphlets. Primary sources also include writings and recordings by witnesses who experienced the events or conditions being documented. For example, oral histories, autobiographies, and memoirs are primary sources.

Where to Look for Primary Sources

Primary source materials can be found in a variety of locations, including within books, newspapers, article bibliographies, and archives or manuscripts collections. 

Primary Sources: Library Databases

Primary Sources: Examples of Helpful Websites

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. 

Archives and Special Collections at WPI

WPI's Archives and Special Collections offer great resources for primary sources. To learn more about the Archives' collections or to schedule a visit to the Archives, please fill out their contact form or e-mail

Primary Sources: Books at WPI

Many primary source documents are republished in books, or even referenced within books on historical topics. To find these books, search WPI Library Search for books about your topic and add keywords like sourcebook, documents, primary sources, or documentary history to your search terms. 

Here are some examples of books containing primary sources: 

History of Science and Technology:

American History:

European History:

Asian History:

Social History: