Skip to Main Content

HIST 1510: World Civilizations

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are items that are directly associated with their producer or user and the period in which they are created.  They reflect the authority and perspective of someone who directly experiences what they are detailing. 

Primary sources can be found in:

  • Collections housed in libraries or archives
  • Digital format through online databases
  • Freely available collections on the Internet
  • Published in books and microforms

Evaluating a Primary Source

The Library of Congress has a great tool for helping you evaluate potential primary sources:

Digital Repositories for Primary Sources

  • ArtStor is a repository of hundreds of thousands of digital images and related data. Digital collections can be browsed by geographic region or by categories that include art, architecture, fashion, photography, maps, charts, manuscripts, and more. Off-campus login required.
  • Chinese Text Project - An online repository of pre-modern Chinese texts. Many are translated into English, but some are untranslated.
  • Database of Neo-Sumerian Texts - Large browsable database of Neo-sumerian texts, seals, and tablets, every entry has a scanned image. Many are not translated.
  • Digitized Manuscripts of the British Library - Fully digitized manuscripts held by the British Library going back to 0 CE.
  • Diotima - Materials for the Study of Women and Gender in the Ancient World
  • Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL) - Digitized public domain volumes of this comprehensive collection of ancient Latin inscriptions from all corners of the Roman Empire.
  • Duke Papyrus Archive - Provides electronic access to texts about and images of nearly 1400 papyri from ancient Egypt.
  • Scrolls from the Dead Sea -  Presents twelve Dead Sea Scroll fragments and archaeological artifacts from the Library of Congress' 1993 exhibition.
  • Epigraphic Sources for Early Greek Writing - Database of inscriptions, searchable by region, script, date, object form, etc.
  • Epigraphische Datenbank Heidelberg - Research project to integrate Latin inscriptions from all parts of the Roman Empire into an extensive database
  • Avalon Project at Yale University - A large collection of documents in law, history, and diplomacy. A small number are from ancient Europe and the Near East.
  • Material Culture Collection Database - Searchable collection of Material Culture maintained by the California Academy of Sciences Department of Anthropology.
  • Perseus Digital Library - Includes primary and secondary sources on the history, literature and culture of the Greco-Roman world, including Philosophy.
  • Sources of Early Akkadian Literature (SEAL) - An online text-searchable database of Babylonian, Assyrian, and Akkadian Literature from 2400-1100 BCE.

History Sourcebooks

The  Internet History Sourcebooks Project is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly (without advertising or excessive layout) for educational use.