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At one time, finding good primary sources meant traveling to libraries and archives to view original documents. Now an increasing amount of this material has been scanned or digitized and is available online, either in open repositories or through subscription databases. Google is a great tool for finding open repositories, along with .

See also our list of Historical newspapers .

Summon indexes many sources of primary documents; the lists of databases below offer additional sources.

Search Summon for primary sources


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  • Pre-18th century

    These databases provide primary documents produced prior to the 1700s.

  • 18th century

    These databases provide primary documents produced in the 1700s.

  • 19th century

    These databases provide primary documents produced in the 1800s.

  • Early 20th century

    These databases provide primary documents produced from 1900 to 1939.


Primary, secondary, and tertiary sources

Primary sources allow researchers to get as close as possible to original ideas, events, and empirical research as possible. Such sources include creative works, first hand accounts of events, and the publication of empirical observations or research.

Secondary sources analyze, review, or summarize information in primary resources or other secondary resources. Secondary sources often rely on other secondary sources and standard disciplinary methods to reach results, and they provide the principle sources of analysis about primary sources.

Tertiary sources provide overviews of topics by synthesizing information gathered from other resources. Tertiary resources often provide data in a convenient form or provide information with context by which to interpret it.

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