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History: Primary Sources

What are Primary Sources?

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence on a subject.  They are created by someone who experienced the period or event first hand.  Because they are eye-witness accounts, many primary sources are created at the time the event occured, but recorded memories -- such as autobiographies, memories, and oral histories -- are also considered primary sources.

For more examples see What are Primary Sources (Yale University)

Books: Colonial History

Do a subject search using the subject headings below to find primary sources in the Peninsula Library System Catalog.

  • sources
  • personal narratives
  • diaries
  • correspondence
  • autobiography

These are examples of some of the books we have that collect primary sources.

Google Books

Google Books

Google Books has the full-text of books published before 1923 (the cut-off date for copyright).  Follow these steps to find these potential primary resources.


Library of Congress

Library of Congress logo

The Library of Congress has thousands of primary sources on American history.  Search by keyword and limit your search by date.

Internet History Sourcebook

Curated by Forham University, A collection of primary sources from Colonial North American and South America. Search by keyword or browse by subject.

Internet History Sourcebook: Colonial North America

Internet History Sourcebook: Colonial Latin America

Internet History Sourcebook: American Independence

eBooks: Academic (EBSCO) Database


To find primary sources go to "Advanced Search" and do a subject search for "sources" along with your keywords on another line.