Skip to main content

Primary Sources: How to Search

World Primary Resources


Search by keyword in this Worldcat database which returns only primary sources. The records of the open access digital resources available via OAIster lead to a wide range of materials and include: digitized (scanned) books, journal articles, newspapers, manuscripts and more; digital text; audio files (wav, mp3); video files (mp4, QuickTime); photographic images (jpeg, tiff, gif); data sets (downloadable statistical information); and theses and research papers.


These open access sources are readily available to all -- without fees or subscriptions.
Links connect to European primary historical documents that are transcribed, reproduced in facsimile, or translated. 
In addition you will find video or sound files, maps, photographs or other imagery, databases, and other documentation.
The sources cover a broad range of historical happenings (political, economic, social and cultural).

Hanover Historic Texts

The Hanover Historical Texts Collection makes available digital versions of historical texts for use in history and humanities courses. The faculty and students of the Hanover College History Department initiated the Hanover Historical Texts Project in 1995, at a time when few primary sources were available outside of published anthologies. To make primary texts readily available for classroom use, they selected important documents, scanned print versions that were out of copyright, converted the scans into HTML format, proofread the resulting documents to correct OCR errors, edited them to provide page breaks, page numbers, and bibliographical information, and posted them online. We have since expanded the collection to include transcriptions of manuscript material from the Hanover College archives.

Perseus Digital Library

This collection, under development since 1987, covers the history, literature and culture of the Greco-Roman world. We are applying what we have learned from Classics to other subjects within the humanities and beyond. We have studied many problems over the past two decades, but our current research centers on personalization: organizing what you see to meet your needs.

Transatlantic Slave Voyages

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database has information on almost 36,000 slaving voyages
which forcibly removed over 10 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. The actual number is estimated to have been as high as 12.5 million. The database and the separate estimates interface offer researchers, students and the general public a chance to rediscover the reality of one of the largest forced movements of peoples in world history

Hathi Trust Digital Library is a partnership of major research institutions and libraries working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future. The mission of HathiTrust is to contribute to research, scholarship, and the common good by collaboratively collecting, organizing, preserving, communicating, and sharing the record of human knowledge. There are more than 140 partners in HathiTrust, and membership is open to institutions worldwide.


United Nations Treaty Collection

United Nations Office of Legal Affairs Treaty Section
The Treaty Section of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs is responsible for two key areas of work:

►The discharge of the depositary functions of the Secretary-General of the United Nations under more than 560 multilateral treaties; and
►The registration and publication of treaties and international agreements under Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations.

Avalon Project

The Avalon Project will mount digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government. We do not intend to mount only static text but rather to add value to the text by linking to supporting documents expressly referred to in the body of the text.

The Avalon Project will no doubt contain controversial documents. Their inclusion does not indicate endorsement of their contents nor sympathy with the ideology, doctrines, or means employed by their authors. They are included for the sake of completeness and balance and because in many cases they are by our definition a supporting document.

Internet History Sourcebook Project

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. 

Heritage Images

A unique partnership with the world’s leading heritage institutions enables us to present both celebrated and hidden treasures from their collections.
Comprehensive keywording and metadata tagging ensure the most accurate of searches, as well as the most informative.


Yale University

Primary sources can be found in all of Yale’s libraries and museums as well as in online resources.  You can browse the collections of those libraries and museums or begin your search with examples of various formats.

Historic Mexican and Mexican American Newspapers

From the University of Arizona, the Historic Mexican and Mexican American Press collection documents and showcases historic Mexican and Mexican American publications published in Tucson, El Paso, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sonora, Mexico from the mid-1800s to the 1970s.

Historical Jewish Press

This site contains a collection of Jewish newspapers published in various countries, languages, and time periods. We display digital versions of each paper, making it possible to view the papers in their original layout. Full-text search is also available for all content published over the course of each newspaper’s publication

National Archives, UK

Our collection is one of the largest in the world, containing over 11 million historical government and public records. From Domesday Book to modern government papers and digital files, our collectionincludes paper and parchment, digital records and websites, photographs, posters, maps, drawings and paintings.

World Digital Library

The World Digital Library (WDL) is a project of the U.S. Library of Congress, carried out with the support of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), and in cooperation with libraries, archives, museums, educational institutions, and international organizations from around the world.

The WDL makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from all countries and cultures.

German History in Documents and Images

German History in Documents and Images (GHDI) is a comprehensive collection of primary source materials documenting Germany's political, social, and cultural history from 1500 to the present. It comprises original German texts, all of which are accompanied by new English translations, and a wide range of visual imagery. The materials are presented in ten sections, which have been compiled by leading scholars. All of the materials can be used free of charge for teaching, research, and related purposes; the site is strictly intended for individual, non-commercial use.

French Revolution Digital Archive

The French Revolution Digital Archive (FRDA) is a multi-year collaboration of the Stanford University Libraries and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) to produce a digital version of the key research sources of the French Revolution and make them available to the international scholarly community. The archive is based around two main resources, the Archives parlementaires and a vast corpus of images first brought together in 1989 and known as the Images de la Revolution française.


Europeana works with thousands of European archives, libraries and museums to share cultural heritage for enjoyment, education and research.

Europeana Collections provides access to over 50 million digitised items – books, music, artworks and more – with sophisticated search and filter tools to help you find what you’re looking for.

Illustration of a Primary Source