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Primary Sources for History Classes


This guide will help you understand what primary sources are and where to find them. If you need help, don't hesitate to contact the history subject librarian whose contact information is in the box to the left, as well as consulting your instructor.

Image from World History Research Guide. Florida Atlantic University Libraries.

 Explore the links below for detailed information on understanding and finding primary resources.

1) From the University Library’s FAQ page:

"My assignment for my history class is to find primary sources. What are primary sources and where do I find them?"

2) From Cal State Los Angeles

 What are primary sources?

3) "Primary Sources on the Web: Finding, Evaluating, Using" From the American Library Association. Explains primary sources, provides links to primary sources on the web, and how to evaluate and cite primary sources on the web. Predominantly useful for United States and Canadian history primary sources.

4) "Guide to Online Primary Sources" from the University of California, San Diego. An extensive resource for primary sources in California, U.S. history, world history, maps, medieval history, newspapers, religion and more. NOTE: If you see a lock icon next to a resource, this indicates access is only available to UC San Diego students.

5) Falsification of history. There are famous (and infamous) examples of primary sources being altered for purposes of propaganda and "rewriting history."

  • One such print book, owned by the library is, The commissar vanishes: the falsification of photographs and art in Stalin's Russia. The call number and floor location can be found here.
  • For digital alteration, consult this print book, available to borrow through the CSU+ system from CSU East Bay or San Francisco State University: Photo Forensics.
6) Social Activism in the United States: Digital Collection and Primary Sources. Contains many links to digital collections and primary source materials available online on the history of activism in the United States.
7) From the CPP Library Special Collections website, two links to a variety of primary sources owned by the library, a variety of California state, county, and city primary sources, and an eclectic mix of miscellaneous primary sources. It may be fruitful to explore these links!

8) Finding primary sources on the Internet.

9) Cal Poly Pomona Library primary source databases:

10) Digital Public Library of America. United States images, texts, videos, and sounds primary sources.