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Research Guides

HIS102: Empires, Encounters, and Exchanges: From the Silk Road to the Present


A primary source is a document that was created at the time of the event or subject you've chosen to study, or by people who were observers of or participants in that event or topic.
The medium of the primary source can be anything, including written texts, objects, buildings, films, paintings, cartoons, etc. What makes the source a "primary" source is WHEN it was made, not what it is.

--Professor Elspeth H. Brown, Dept. of History, University of Toronto


How to find them

1. Start with what you know: You may uncover references to valuable primary sources in your textbook, course notes, or bibliographies from your journal articles and other secondary sources.

2. Use the library catalogue to find books and other kinds of primary sources in the library collection.

Do a keyword search for your topic, and include one of the following keywords:

  • sources
  • documents
  • texts
  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • pamphlets
  • personal narratives 

 3.  Use reliable online text collections