Booth Library
Eastern Illinois University
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History: Primary and Secondary Sources

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Primary Sources vs. Secondary Sources
A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study.  These sources provide direct or firsthand evidence about an event.

Examples of primary sources include the following: (click on a type of source to see an example)
- Letters  - Diaries
- Newspapers  - Speeches
- Personal Narratives  - Correspondence
- Interviews  - Memoirs
- Photographs  - Video Recordings
- Documents  - Archives

A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources.  These sources were created at a later time than the event being studied. 

Examples of secondary sources include:
-Biographies -Literary Criticisms
-Monographs -Reviews
-Most Journal Articles -Most Published Books
Finding Primary Sources at Booth Library
Historical Newspapers
Booth Library's collection of historical newspapers can be useful for finding primary sources.  You can access them online by selecting "Newspapers" from the main search bar on the library homepage.

Database Suggestions for Primary Sources
19th Century UK Periodicals
Digitized versions of key 19th Century UK Periodicals from 1800-1900.

Alexander Street Press
Database offering different collections of streaming videos.  The most useful for primary sources are American History in Video and Ethnographic Video Online.  You can also filter searches by content type (interviews, personal narratives, etc.) by browsing here.

Black Thought and Culture
Non-Fiction Writings by Notable African Americans | Includes Previously Unpublished and Fugitive Materials | Date Range from 1700-2006

CARLI Digital Collections
CARLI Digital Collections is a repository for digital content created by member libraries, or purchased by CARLI for use by its members. CARLI Digital Collections provides access to myriad special collections, containing over 150,000 items including images, printed and manuscript materials, sound recordings, and the Saskia Art Image and Sanborn Maps of Illinois collections.

Digital Image Collections
Various digital photograph resources either created by or licensed to Booth Library.

Early English Books Online
Fulltext | Virtually Every Work Printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America | 1473-1700

Historical Statistics of the United States
This resource provides access to statistical data on American social, behavioral, humanistic, and natural sciences - including economics, government, finance, sociology, demography, education, law, natural resources, climate, religion, international migration and trade.

Vital Speeches of the Day
Journal of speeches dating back to 1934. 
Primary Sources in the EIU Library Catalog

You can also look for primary sources in the library catalog by combining a type of primary source with a topic. 
Examples might be:
Civil War AND diaries World War II AND memoirs
Lincoln AND speeches Vietnam War AND personal narratives
Primary Sources on the Web
The following websites are also useful in finding primary sources:

American Memory
A digital archive from the Library of Congress focusing on American history materials.  Features over 9 million items organized into thematic collections.

Past Tracker
An online archive dedicated to Illinois history

Smithsonian Institution
Search over 8,8 million records of museum objects and library/archival materials.

UNESCO Archives Portal
Provides links to archives around the world and their electronic resources. 

U.S. Census
Statistics and data collected by the U.S. Census pertaining to topics such as populations, economy, and geographic location.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
See digital images of many important American documents and other Federal Government documents.