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HSS 300 - 1865-1945 in the US: Primary Sources - E-Books, Databases & Websites

This guide is intended for students enrolled in the second term of U.S. History.

Finding and Identifying Primary Sources

Primary Source vs. Secondary Source

A primary source is a document that shows direct, immediate or firsthand knowledge of a subject or event. It is a document written at the time or on the scene where an event occurred. These include: 

  • Autobiographies
  • Diaries/Journals
  • Letters
  • Speeches
  • Travel Accounts
  • Messages and Papers
  • Government Documents
  • Magazine/Newspaper Articles
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Other Non-Text Materials

Secondary sources are those writings without direct knowledge of a topic or event. These include biographies, monographs, and general periodical articles. Secondary sources are written by people who did not witness or experience an event but have a great deal of knowledge about the topic. Writers often use primary sources in their writing of secondary sources!

Selected e-Books

undefinedBelow, you will find a selection of e-Books that are, or that contain, primary sources.  You may also conduct your own search for primary source e-books in the catalog. Keep in mind that primary sources may be found in reference or secondary source books, so be sure to include the source where you find primary sources in your citations.  

Image from ARTstor:  National Assn. of Manufacturers U.S., War Poster, Long May it Wave, 1939/1945.

Primary Source Websites

Primary Sources in Databases

ALWAYS use the date range feature when searching for primary source newspaper articles.  An article is only a primary source if it was published at the time in which an event took place.


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