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Tips for finding books that are primary sources
Finding books that are primary sources can be tricky. While there are no subject headings for primary sources, there are a few tips that you can use to help find books.
- If you are looking for primary information about a person, do an AUTHOR search using the persons name. This will return any books that the library has that the person has written, including autobiographies and journals which are primary sources
- Do a title search for the word journal or diary.
- Look in government document collections, you would be surprised what type of primary information you can find there.
The American Presidency Project
The American Presidency Project (americanpresidency.org), was established in 1999 as a collaboration between John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters at the University of California,
Our archives contain 103,900 documents related to the study of the Presidency.
The following archives may be useful for your research.
Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy
The Avalon Project from the Lillian Goldman Law Library at the Yale University Law School has several collections of online legal, historical, and political documents from ancient times to the present.
Campbell University Digital Collections
A collection of materials about Campbell's past and present.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Chronicling America is a Website providing access to information about historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages, and is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). NDNP, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC), is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages. Supported by NEH, this rich digital resource will be developed and permanently maintained at the Library of Congress. An NEH award program will fund the contribution of content from, eventually, all U.S. states and territories.
Cold War International History Project
The Woodrow Wilson Center's Cold War International History Project has a number of primary source collections regarding key moments in the Cold War. These may be found in the Digital Archive tab and in their e-Dossiers.
David M. Rubenstein Library
The David M. Rubenstein Library holds rare books, manuscripts, audio recordings, moving images, artifacts, digital files, and other materials that together document over 20 centuries of human history.
FBI Records: The Vault - Al Capone
Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone (1899-1947) rose to infamy as a gangster in Chicago during the 1920s and early 1930s. The Bureau of Investigation (the FBI’s predecessor) joined the Bureau of Prohibition and other agencies in investigating Capone. In 1931, Capone was sentenced to prison for tax evasion. Suffering from a case of syphilis that left him too mentally ill to resume his previous criminal activities, he was paroled in 1939 and settled in Florida, where he lived until his death in 1947.
Internet History Sourcebooks Project
Paul Halsall, editor of this project, has put together a number of document collections ranging from historical periods to historical topics.
Library of Congress: Digital Collections
Collections created by the Library of Congress that discuss various aspects of American history and life.
The National Archives
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation's record keeper. Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by us forever.
Those valuable records are preserved and are available to you, whether you want to see if they contain clues about your family’s history, need to prove a veteran’s military service, or are researching an historical topic that interests you.
National Security Archive
Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents ("the world's largest nongovernmental collection" according to the Los Angeles Times), leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets.
National Security Archive
The National Security Archive is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Important primary sources may be located under the documents tab (especially electronic briefing books) as well as on selected links on the homepage.
The North Carolina Collection
Housed in specially designed facilities in the Louis Round Wilson Library, the North Carolina Collection preserves an incomparable assemblage of literary, visual, and artifactual materials illustrating four centuries of the colony and state of North Carolina. Its uniqueness is explained by a distinguished history of missionary zeal, unwavering leadership, and citizen support.
State Archives of North Carolina
The State Archives of North Carolina collects, preserves, and makes available for public use historical and evidential materials relating to North Carolina. Its holdings consist of official records of state, county, and local governmental units, and copies of federal and foreign government materials. In addition to these official records are private collections, organization records, maps, pamphlets, sound recordings, photographs, motion picture film, and a small reference library. In all, the Archives houses over 50,000 linear feet of permanently valuable materials containing millions of individual items.
U.S. Department of State: Office of the Historian
The Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity.
The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
The SHAFR Task Force on Freely Available Research Databases has compiled this bibliography of electronic resources to aid research in U.S. foreign relations history.
Useful Databases for finding Primary Sources
Economist Historical Archive
The Economist Historical Archive ('EHA') is the fully searchable complete facsimile edition of The Economist, the weekly paper which is essential reading for anyone engaged in politics, current affairs and all aspects of business and trade worldwide. Containing every issue since its launch in 1843 and more than 600,000 pages, EHA offers full-colour images, multiple search indexes, topic and area supplements and surveys.
Financial Times Historical Archive
The Financial Times Historical Archive, 1888-2010, is the complete searchable facsimile run of the world's most authoritative daily business newspaper. Every article and advertisement ever printed in the paper can be searched and browsed individually and page by page.
Gale NewsVault allows you to cross-search six newspaper databases: 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, Economist Historical Archive, Financial Times Historical Archive, Sunday Times Digital Archive, Times Digital Archive, and Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive.
This database provides primary source materials from ProQuest's University Publications of America (UPA) Collection in a digital format. Researchers can access letters, papers, photographs, scrapbooks, financial records, diaries, and much more from a single interface.
LexisNexis Academic provides searchable access to a comprehensive spectrum of full-text information from over 5,600 sources, selected to meet academic research needs.
Nineteenth-Century US Newspapers
This database contains digital facsimile images of both full pages and clipped articles for hundreds of 19th century U.S. newspapers.
North American Women's Letters and Diaries
Over 150,000 pages of published letters and diaries plus 4,000 pages of previously unpublished materials depicting the personal experiences of hundreds of women.
Sabin Americana, 1500-1926
Based on Joseph Sabin's landmark bibliography, this collection contains works about the Americas published throughout the world from 1500 to the early 1900's. Included are books, pamphlets, serials and other documents that provide original accounts of exploration, trade, colonialism, slavery and abolition, the western movement, Native Americans, military actions and much more. With over 6 million pages from 29,000 works, this collection is a cornerstone in the study of the western hemisphere.
Times Digital Archive, 1785-2012
First published in 1785, The Times of London is widely considered to be the world's 'newspaper of record'. The Times Digital Archive allows users to search over 200 years of this invaluable historical source. See also Sunday Times Digital Archive.
Sunday Times Digital Archive
The Sunday Times, published since 1822, is a rich complement to the Times (London) Digital Archive. See also Times Digital Archive.
Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive
The complete online fully-searchable edition of the TLS from the first edition in 1902 onwards. This is the essential companion for studying and researching literary activity and critical opinion makers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since 1902, the TLS has scrutinized, applauded and dissected the work of leading writers and thinkers, offering comprehensive coverage of the most important publications, in every subject, in several languages, as well as reviewing current theatre, cinema, music, and exhibitions.