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History: Locate primary sources

What is a primary source?

Primary sources include documents or artifacts created by a witness to or participant in an event.  They can be firsthand testimony or evidence created during the time period that you are studying.

Primary sources may include diaries, letters, interviews, oral histories, photographs, newspaper articles, government documents, poems, novels, plays, and music.  The collection and analysis of primary sources is central to historical research.

Use the terms below in conjunction with your topic to locate primary sources in the UW Libraries Search. You'll find published collections of documents & letters, diaries, maps, newspapers and much, much more..   See Locate primary sources in translation for additional examples.

sources          journals       
personal narratives interviews
correspondence sermons
letters documents
diaries papers
images or photographs advertising

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Examples of primary sources published at the time of the event

More examples of primary sources

Primary sources are sometimes republished at later dates. For example, Memoirs of Nisqually is a diary written by someone who lived from 1805-1849, but it was not published until 1979.  There are also edited collections of primary source materials published with more recent dates.  Documenting First Wave Feminisms includes primary documents dating from the abolition movement to the Second World War.

Primary sources by region

Use the tabs on the individual pages to find  primary sources for specific regions and countries: