Primary sources are:
Secondary sources are:
How to tell the difference:
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.
Books written by historians about a topic are secondary sources. Historians' introductions to and editorial comments on collections of primary documents are also secondary sources because they're twice removed from the actual event or process you're going to be writing about. So while a historian's introduction to Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle (1906) is a secondary source, the novel itself, written in 1906, is a primary source.
Adapted from "Writing about History" by Elspeth Brown
Cabinet papers, diplomatic dispatches, legislation and case law, parish records, parliamentary debates, ambassador's reports, treaties, censuses, and statistics
Newspapers, magazines, literature, songs, hyms, advertisements, interviews, speeches, memoirs, autobiographies, pamphlets/treatises, works of art, photographs, television and radio shows
Letters, wills, diaries, contracts (marriage, purchase, etc.), home video and audio recordings, receipts, leases, loans, petitions, birth and death certificates
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