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World History: Primary Sources

What is a primary source?

In the study of history, primary sources are documents, photographs, recordings, and artifacts created by contemporary historical actors or witnesses to historical events. Primary sources necessarily form the foundation of historical research. In the resources below you can find rich and multidimensional collections of primary sources from every era and reflecting every facet of world history.

Lesser Ury, Abend im Café Bauer (Evening at the Café Bauer). 1898. German. Oil on canvas. Public domain (source).


Guides to Research With Images

Researchers seeking images for use in historical inquiry will find these guides especially useful:

Images: A Guide to Finding Resources -- Cornell University Library) 

Finding and Using Images -- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Finding and Using Images -- Brown University Library

Finding Images -- Boston College

Guan Daosheng, Bamboo and Stone. Chinese. Ink and wash painting. 13th-14th c. Public domain (source).

Audio & Video

Archival Material & Documents

Newspapers, Periodicals, Statistics


Michael Kicey's picture
Michael Kicey
424 Lockwood

Focus on America and Europe

Finding and Using Primary Sources

Using Primary Sources on the Web -- American Library Association, History Section, Reference and User Services Association

Harvard Guide to Using Sources -- Harvard College Writing Program, Harvard University

Making Sense of Evidence, History Matters -- Roy Rosensweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University