Primary Sources

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The Historianís Handbook defines a primary source as one that "gives the words of the witnesses or the first recorders of an event. Primary sources include manuscripts, archives, letters, diaries, and speeches."  They can also be photographs, audio or video recordings; original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories.  These are frequently materials that document the attitudes and popular thought of a historical time period. 
Here are just a few of the Primary Source resources that the Framingham Public Library has in its collection and a sample of what is available online.


Suggested Books 

Call Number Author Title
REF Y940.2 Renaissance Peggy Saari and Aaron Saari, editors Renaissance and Reformation. Primary sources
REF Y973.9 American; 6 vols. 1910-1979, 2000-2009 Cynthia Rose, editor American decades primary sources
Y970.004 Indigenous James D. Torr, editor Indigenous peoples of North America: primary sources
REF 909.07 2001. Middle Judson Knight Middle ages. Primary sources
REF Y940.3 Pendergast Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast World War I primary sources
REF Y940.53 World Barbara C. Bigelow World War II : primary sources
REF Y973.2 Colonial Peggy Sarri Colonial America : primary sources
REF Y306.362 Slavery Judson Knight Slavery throughout history. Primary sources
REF Y973.2 Copeland David A. Copeland. Debating the issues in colonial newspapers : primary documents on events of the period
REF 973 Annals vols. 1-18   The Annals of America
REF 973 1994 100 Peter B Levy, editor 100 Key documents in American Democracy
REF 973 Commager; vols. 1 & 2 Henry Steele Commager, editor Documents of American history
REF Y973 United   Our Documents: 100 Milestone Documents from the National Archives


Suggested Websites

American Memory
Historical Collections for the National Digital Library American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience.

The Avalon Project
Documents in Law, American History and Diplomacy The Avalon Project is dedicated to providing access via the World Wide Web to primary source materials in the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government

Making of America
Making of America (MoA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction.

New York Public Library Digital Gallery
A searchable database presenting tens of thousands of digital images from The Library's collections including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, rare prints and photographs, and more.

Repository of Primary Sources
A listing of over 5500 websites describing holdings of manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photographs, and other primary sources for the research scholar

Our Documents
100 Milestone documents in American history Ė from the National Archives

Duke University Libraries - AdAccess
A huge database of advertisements compiled by Duke University from the U.S. and Canada from 1911-1955

American Journeys
American Journeys contains more than 18,000 pages of eyewitness accounts of North American exploration, from the sagas of Vikings in Canada in AD1000 to the diaries of mountain men in the Rockies 800 years later

Primary historical documents from Western Europe

Archiving Early America
An array of primary source material from 18th Century America

WW2 Resources

Museum of Tolerance - Simon Wiesenthal Center
Holocaust related resources

Websites change! Please email us if you have difficulty with a site on this list. We'll try to identify and correct the problem.


November 2008  







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