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HIST 4463 The French Revolution: Liberty and Death, 1789-1804: Search Strategies
Selected English-language primary sources related to the French Revolution
You may need additional English-language primary sources beyond those included in the tab labeled Primary Sources. The considerations, strategies, and examples provided on this tab offer guidance for how to search for additional sources.
Brainstorm as many keywords or phrases that come to mind. Alternate terms may be used to describe the same event or concept. If you search for one and not the other, you may miss out on some good choices. For example:
French Revolution is the most popular phrase used, but you could find different results with a search combining france and revolution
If you're focusing on a specific event, try separate searches for key players involved in the event. This may lead you to additional sources.
Primary Source Formats
Primary Sources exist in a variety of formats. These include, but are not limited to:
letters or correspondence
personal narratives or personal accounts
Try using these terms (used to describe format or type of source) as a keyword in combination with the search terms that describe your area of interest.
Each type of source (format) serves a different purpose and meets different information needs. Which formats will suit your needs best?
If you're not sure which format will be best, sometimes using primary or sources or archives as keywords in combination with the subject of your research will retrieve relevant options.
If you're interested in learning more about daily life during the revolution, you might look for personal accounts, diaries, letters, correspondence.
If you're interesting in analyzing official records, you might use the terms records, documents, proceedings.
English-language Primary Sources
English-language sources and sources translated to English will be the most beneficial for our purposes.
It might be useful to add English or translation as a keyword in your search, but it may not make a difference. It depends on the combination you're trying and the tool you're using. Try your search with and without English to see all your options.
English-language sources might include: historical newspapers and personal accounts from English-speaking countries published during the revolution or other primary sources that have been translated to English. Translations are considered primary sources.
Primary sources can be found using a variety of tools including library catalogs (selected primary sources are reproduced in books written by historians), databases, and search engines. I recommend the following tools provided by BGSU Libraries.
Full-text collections of thousands of historical American periodicals, provided by the American Antiquarian Society and published between 1691 and 1912. The collection is fully searchable via a number of filters, and offers multiple navigation options.
Full text primary sources from 18th and 19th century America, mainly newspapers, including the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Virginia Gazette, Godey's Lady's Book, Frederick Douglass Paper, a collection of South Carolina Newspapers, and a collection of African American newspapers.
Primary Source Search Strategies: Examples
Let's apply the strategies explained in the Advanced Search Strategies document (at the top of the left column). These examples might give you some ideas for developing your own search strategy.
Note: These strategies can be used in library catalogs, databases, and search engines like Google. These examples are not exhaustive.
Scenario: You are researching daily life during the French Revolution and you'd like to know what English-language primary sources might be available online.
"french revolution" AND (diary OR diaries OR letter* OR correspondence) AND (English OR translate*)
france AND revolution AND (record* OR document*) AND (English OR translate*)
Scenario: You'd like to find primary sources related to King Louis XVI during the revolution.
King Louis XVI AND (documents OR primary OR sources)
Scenario: You need primary sources about the role of women (or specific women) in the revolution.
women AND "french revolution" AND (diary* OR letter* OR correspondence* OR paper* OR primary OR archive*)
women AND france AND revolution AND (diary* OR letter* OR correspondence* OR paper* OR primary OR archive*)
"marie antoinette" AND revolution AND sources AND english
Scenario: You need primary sources about the Third Estate
"third estate" AND France AND revolution AND (document* OR record* OR primary OR sources)