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History: Primary Resources

A guide dedicated to primary resources related to United States and international history.


Welcome to the Henry Whittemore Library Primary Resources in History LibGuide!  Please feel free to contact a librarian at any time during your research process.

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event or a period of time created by participants or observers. Primary source materials are usually created during the time period being studied.  Primary sources are materials that have not undergone any sort of evaluation or interpretation.  Examples of primary sources include:

Diaries and Autobiographies

Interviews - "On the scene"

Interviews -  "Oral History"* 






Newspaper articles


Audio/ video recordings

Musical scores



Court records


Government records



*Primary sources may also include materials that were created by a witness of a time period or event, but at a later date. Examples of these types of primary sources include autobiographies and oral interviews.

Secondary sources - what is the difference?

Secondary sources are contemporary documents such as articles, books and other materials that summarize,  interpret and evaluate the data provided by the primary sources.  Secondary sources are usually created by historians, scholars or authors. Examples of secondary source materials include:

  • Biographies
  • Books written by scholars and authors
  • Newspaper, encyclopedia articles or journal articles written after an event
  • The research paper you are currently writing

The bibliography of a secondary source may be useful to locate a primary source. For example, if you find a journal article related to your research topic, check the bibliography of that article for primary sources that the author used.


Links for Students