Skip to Main Content

LIT 101: Cultures and Canons: Primary Sources Online

research guide for TCNJ students enrolled in LIT 101

Country/Region

See the Find Primary Sources page of the Chinese History libguide for access to primary sources on Chinese history in English translation.

Online Primary Sources for the History of France

By Era:

Multiple historical eras

Medieval Period 

(c. 500-1500)

Enlightenment, French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Era 

(the long 18th century)

Bourbon Restoration, Second Republic, Second Empire, and the Belle Epoque

(19th century)

World War II and the Cold War 

(20th century)

 

Multiple historical eras:

Medieval Period (c. 500-1500)

Enlightenment, French Revolution, and Napoleon (the long 18th century):

Bourbon Restoration, Second Republic, Second Empire, and the Belle Epoque (19th century):

World War II and the Cold War (20th century):

Online Primary Sources for the History of Germany and Eastern Europe

By Era:

Multiple historical eras

Medieval Period 

(c. 500-1500)

Early Modern Period 

(c. 1500-1800)

The Long Nineteenth century

(1800s)

World Wars I and II, Cold War and Beyond 

(20th and 21st centuries)

 

Multiple historical eras:

Medieval Period (c. 500-1500):

Early Modern Period (c. 1500-1800):

The Long Nineteenth century:

World Wars I and II, Cold War, and Beyond (20th and 21st centuries):

Multiple Latin American countries and/or historical eras:

Andes:

Caribbean:

Mexico and Central America:

Southern Cone:

Era of "Discovery" and Exploration (i.e., clash of civilizations):

Independence from Spain (c. 1810-1825):

Cold War, CIA interventions, Dirty Wars: Multiple Latin American countries (20th century):

E-Books:

Printed books in the library:

Online Primary Sources for the History of South Asia

Newspapers:

Online catalogs, directories, and websites:

Gitenstein Library e-books:

Keep in mind that the Women's History and Periodicals tabs of this page reveal additional online primary sources. Examples from the Periodicals tab:

  • Search the historical NYT database to discover how the most widely read U.S. paper covered India's independence movement.
  • The FBIS database connects researchers with Indian perspectives on independence published from the early 1940s.

Explore carefully, but please do not hesitate to make an appointment with me for a research consultation (see the guide's homepage) if you wish.

Online Primary Sources for the History of the United Kingdom

By Era:

Multiple historical eras

Medieval Period

(c. 500-1500)

Early Modern Period

(c. 1500-1800)

Regency and Victorian Periods

(c. 1800-1900)

World War II, Cold War, and Beyond

(20th and 21st centuries)

 

Multiple historical eras:

Medieval Period (c. 500-1500):

Early Modern Period (c. 1500-1800):

Regency and Victorian Periods (c. 1800-1900):

World Wars I and II, Cold War, and Beyond (20th and 21st centuries):

Online reproductions of primary sources in American history are now abundant thanks in large measure to the digitization efforts of archives and libraries. Find below some of the most important open access collections.


No search for primary sources is complete without a virtual visit to the Digital Collections of the Library of Congress (LOC). Search or browse this vast collection by topic, time period, or source types that include manuscripts, maps, motion pictures, photos, and more. LOC holds the Presidential Papers of 23 U.S. presidents spanning the period between George Washington (1732-1799) and Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933).


"The Digital Public Library of America brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. It strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science."


"Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is a digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture. Currently DocSouth includes ten thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs" (University of North Carolina).


"Spanning a wide range of historical eras, geography, and media, NYPL Digital Collections offers drawings, illuminated manuscripts, maps, photographs, posters, prints, rare illustrated books, videos, audio, and more. Encompassing the subject strengths of the vast collections of The Library, these materials represent the applied sciences, fine and decorative arts, history, performing arts, and social sciences."


The United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is an extraordinarily rich repository of primary sources on United States history, but among major cultural institutions has been the slowest to digitize. Begin with NARA's Research page, which includes access to:

The Archival Facility for NARA's Mid-Atlantic Region is located in Center City Philadelphia, approximately 45 minutes by car from TCNJ's campus.


The American Antiquarian Society provides access to numerous digitized collections, many of which are open access.


Document collections in library e-books:

Historical Topic

Online Primary Sources for African American History

By Topic/Era:

Multiple historical periods

Colonial and Antebellum Periods

(c. 1500-1877)

Post-Reconstruction, Civil Rights, and Beyond

(1878-present)

By Source Type:

Periodicals

(e.g., Journals, Magazines, and Newspapers)

 

Multiple historical periods:

Colonial and Antebellum Periods (c. 1500-1877):

Post Reconstruction, Civil Rights, and Beyond (c. 1878-present):

Periodicals (e.g., Journals, Magazines, Newspapers):

Available at nearby libraries:

Online Primary Sources for the History of Colonial North America and the Early Republic

By Topic/Era:

American Revolution

Colonial Era

(general)

Commerce and Trade

Era of "Discovery" and Exploration

(i.e., clash of cultures)

The Law and Politics

Medicine

Religion

By Source Type:

Atlases, Catalogs and Indexes

(of primary sources)

Books

Correspondence/Letters

(also Diaries and Papers)

Images

Newspapers


 

American Revolution:

Colonial Era (general):

Commerce and Trade:

Era of "Discovery" and Exploration (i.e., clash of cultures):

The Law and Politics:

Medicine

Religion:

Atlases, Catalogs, and Indexes of primary sources:

Books (primary source):

Correspondence (Letters), Diaries, and Papers:

Best bets:

Next steps:

Images (primary source):

Newspapers (primary source):

Students researching the Spanish invasion of the Aztec (Mexica) Empire might wish to consult primary source accounts, preferably written from both the Nahua (indigenous) and Spanish perspectives. Use our interlibray loan (or ILL) service to request books not held by Gitenstein Library.

Primary:

Mexica and Tlaxcalan accounts, though mediated by the Spanish, are available in:

Spanish accounts can be found in English translations of:

Selections from other Spaniards who participated in the Conquest, especially the so-called anonymous conqueror, can be found in The Conquistadors: First-Person Accounts of the Conquest of Mexico (c1963).

Secondary:

Historians analyze and interpret surviving primary (i.e., eyewitness) accounts to create narratives (or histories) of the past. Those secondary histories are situated within a broader historiography that can span centuries. William H. Prescott's Conquest of Mexico (c1934), originally written in the nineteenth century, remains the standard history of the downfall of the Aztec (Mexica) Empire. (We can largely "thank" Prescott for popularizing the term Aztec, a word never used in ancient Mesoamerica. The people of Tenochtitlan referred to themselves as Mexica.) Prescott's engaging work is very much a product of its time. A better contender for a comprehensive secondary history is Conquest: Montezuma, Cortes, and the Fall of Old Mexico by Hugh Thomas (c1993). Matthew Restall's Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest (c2003)—highly recommended—challenges claims made by numerous historians between the mid-nineteenth and late twentieth centuries (e.g., Did the Mexica nobility believe the Spanish to be gods? Answer: No.). Rutgers University historian Camilla Townsend's wonderful Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs (c2019) privileges a wide range of indigenous sources. Chapters 4 and 5 focus on the Conquest.

Online Primary Sources for the History of the U.S. Civil War

By Topic:

Abolitionists and the Underground Railroad

U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction 

(general)

Confederacy and the South

Medicine and Nursing in the Civil War

Women and the Civil War

(North and South)

By Source Type:

Correspondence/Letters

(also Diaries and Papers)

Images

(Caricatures, Cartoons, Photographs, and Sketches)

Newspapers


 

Abolitionists and the Underground Railroad:

U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction (general):

The Confederacy and the South:

Medicine and the War:

Women and the Civil War (North and South):

Correspondence (Letters), Diaries, and Papers:

Images (Caricatures, Cartoons, Photographs, and Sketches):

Newspapers:

Border states:

National (North + South):

North:

South:

Online Primary Sources for Environmental History

By Era:

Environmental History

(general)

Early Environmental Movement

(c 1800-1945)

Modern Environmental Movement

(1946-present)

 

Environmental History (general):

Early Environmental Movement (c. 1800-1945):

John Muir collections:

Modern Environmental Movement (c. 1946-present):

Find below links to online primary sources that relate to the history of indigenous peoples north of the Rio Grande. Find additional primary sources in print by performing an Advanced search in our library's discovery service for <"Indians of North America" AND (sources OR diaries OR narratives OR correspondence)>. Well worth consulting is Native American Studies: Primary Sources, a Michigan State University libguide.

Online Primary Sources for Native American History

Native American History

(general)

By Culture Region:

East of the Mississippi

(Eastern Woodlands, Ohio Valley, and the Southeast)

Great Plains and Intermountain West

(Plains, Great Basin, Southwest)

West Coast

(California, Northwest Coast)

 

Native American History (general):

East of the Mississippi:

Great Plains and Intermountain West:

West Coast:

Available at nearby libraries:

Find below a selection of primary documents about the plague, epidemics, and pandemics in history. See also Previous Pandemics on our COVID-19 and the Coronavirus Pandemic Information Resources libguide.

Online Primary Sources for the History of Religion

By Religion and Religious Denominations:

Religion

(general)

Agnosticism and Atheism

Anabaptism 

(Mennonites)

Buddhism

Catholicism

Islam

Judaism

Methodism

Mormonism

Protestantism

(multiple denominations)

Puritanism

Quakerism

By Era:

Early Christianity (Late Antiquity) and the Medieval Church

Protestant Reformation, Post-Reformation, and the Early Modern Church


 

Religion (general):

Agnosticism and Atheism:

Anabaptism (Mennonites):

Buddhism:

Catholicism:

Islam:

Judaism:

Methodism:

Mormonism:

Protestantism (multiple denominations):

Puritanism: 

Quakerism:

Early Christianity (Late Antiquity) and the Medieval Church:

Protestant Reformation, Post-Reformation, and the Early Modern Era:

American Military History (general):

American Revolution [click on the Colonial North America tab, above]

Civil War [click on the U.S. Civil War tab, above]

War of 1812:

Mexican War, 1846-1848

World War I:

World War II:

Multiple historical eras:

Medieval Period (c. 500-1500):

Colonialism, The Enlightenment, The Age of Revolutions, and First Wave Feminism (c. 1500-1920):

16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries:

American Civil War:

The Long 19th Century (e.g., Suffrage):

Civil Rights, Labor, World War, and Second Wave Feminism (c. 1921-date):

Source Type

Other Libraries and Archives:

Find i