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History: Primary Sources

Terms to search for Primary Source Material in books

Search the Library Discovery System and WorldCat  and Google for letters, diaries, speeches, and personal narratives. Include the keywords or phrases below in your search. 

  • Sources
  • Collections 
  • Pictorial works
  • Documentary history
  • Oral history 
  • Memoirs
  • Autobiography
  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Pamphlets
  • Speeches
  • Eyewitness
  • Correspondence
  • Interviews
  • Personal narratives


  • Civil War and personal narratives
  • Women pioneers and diaries
  • Witchcraft and sources

Other sources

Specialized subject encyclopedias often include Appendices with reprints of primary source documents.  The Crusades: An Encyclopedia is an excellent example of a specialized encyclopedia that contains translations of primary source documents and a rich bibliography of sources to consider for further investigation. 


Subject Bibliographies
Subject bibliographies published by scholars are an excellent means of finding primary and secondary sources.  To locate Subject Bibliographies, add the Subject Term "Bibliography " in a Boolean search with your topic.  You can also enter the term 'Bibliography' as a keyword in a Boolean search along with your topic.  

WorldCat search example:  su:bibliography  kw:civil war  
Will retrieve this bibliography 

Library databases with primary sources

Guides to libraries and archives worldwide

  • ArchiveGrid 
    Index to finding aids and other descriptive information about the holdings of manuscript and archival collections in libraries and research institutions throughout the world.
  • SNAC (Social Networks and Archival Context) is a freely available database of descriptions of the creators (people or organizations) of archival collections, unlike Archive Finder, WorldCat, and ArchiveGrid, which contain descriptions of collections. Its focus is on creating a network of AM collections which for any particular person or organization link to the names of associated persons and organizations.
  • CLIR Hidden Collections Registry (Council on Library and Information Resources)
    The CLIR Hidden Collections registry is a discovery tool to highlight rare and unique library, archival, and museum collections. It features projects funded through CLIR’s Cataloging and Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives programs as well as numerous other special collections throughout the U.S. and Canada.
  • List of national and state libraries 
  • CIA Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room 
    The FOIA Electronic Reading Room is provided as a public service by the Directorate of Digital Innovation's Information Management Services.


Selected online Primary Source sites

Avalon Project 
The Avalon Project, sponsored by Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library includes digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government. 

Digital Public Library of America
Contains millions of cultural heritage objects from libraries, archives, and museums across  the United States. 

Documenting the American South
Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is a digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture. Currently DocSouth includes sixteen thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs.

Europeana Collections
"Multi-lingual online collection of millions of digitized items from European museums, libraries, archives and multi-media collections."

EuroDocs: Online Sources for European History 
Links connect to European primary historical documents that are transcribed, reproduced in facsimiles, or translated.  In addition, you will find video or sound files, maps, photographs or other imagery, databases, and other documentation. The sources cover a broad range of historical happenings (political, economic, social and cultural. The order of documents is chronological wherever possible. 

The Internet Archive
Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free digitized resources: books, movies, software, music, and more.

Library of Congress Digital Collections

Library of Congress Chronicling America : Historic American Newspapers
Search the full text of select newscasters from the 1798-1949.

Medieval History Texts in Translation

Translated texts of the Pontificate of Gregory VII; the Crusades; the Norman Kingdom of Sicily; and the Chronicle of St. Clement, Casauria. From the University of Leeds.


University of Montevallo, Milner Archives Digital Collection

Internet Archive

Anna Crawford Milner Archive and Special Collections
Located on the ground floor of the library. 

W.M. "Mack" Wyatt Digital Archive
The W.M. “Mack” Wyatt Digital Archive serves as a repository for archived newspapers printed in Montevallo and Shelby County, Ala., particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As this digital archive expands, newsprints appearing in various formats will be added.