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THIST 380 History Methods Research and Writing - Sundermann: Primary Sources

What is a primary source?

The collection and analysis of primary sources is central to historical research. A primary source can take many forms: letters, memos, newspapers, diaries, film, photographs, speeches, government reports, British parliamentary debates, sermons, magazines, web sites, etc. Often they are created during the time period which is being studied (correspondence, diaries, newspapers, government documents), but they can also be produced later by eyewitnesses or participants (memoirs, oral histories).

You may find primary sources in their original format such as in an archive.  You may also find them as recently published book collections (often called a "documentary history"), microfilm, electronic databases, digitized images, etc.

UW Libraries Search

UW Libraries Search

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Search terms for primary sources

Combine any of the terms below with your topic or concepts when you search UW Libraries Search.  You can also limit your searches by date ranges

  • documents
  • papers
  • records
  • diaries
  • journals
  • letters or correspondence
  • narratives (as in personal narratives)
  • photographs or images
  • advertisements
  • speeches
  • sermons
  • bills
  • laws
  • treaties

Published primary source collections

Primary sources: Newspapers

The Times (of London) Digital Archive (UW Restricted) provides full-text searching of newspaper articles spanning the twentieth century.

The Guardian and The Observer (UW Restricted) provides full-text searching of newspaper articles from 1791 - 2003.

Online Primary Source Collections: 20th Century United Kingdom