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Primary Sources: Primary Sources Online

guide to finding and working with primary sources for TCNj affiliates


online primary sources by 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


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:



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):

Online Primary Sources for the History of South Asia

Online catalogs, directories, and websites:

Gitenstein Library e-books:

The Gitenstein Library e-books listed below merely scratch the surface of what is available. This canned search of the library's new discovery service, for example, reveals nearly 200 primary source e-books, most accessible from the HathiTrust Digital Library. 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 relatively abundant thanks in large measure to the digitization efforts of archives and libraries. No search for primary sources in American history is complete without a virtual visit to American Memory, Library of Congress. Search or browse this vast digital collection by topic, time period, or source types that include manuscripts, maps, motion pictures, photos, and more. Also see the many Digital Collections of the Library of Congress.

"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 only a small portion of the collection has been digitized. 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.

Historical Topic

online primary sources by 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


By Source Type:


(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):

Online Primary Sources for the History of Colonial North America

By Topic/Era:

American Revolution

Colonial Era


Commerce and Trade

Era of "Discovery" and Exploration

(i.e., clash of cultures)

The Law and Politics



By Source Type:

Atlases, Catalogs and Indexes

(of primary sources)



(also Diaries and Papers)




American Revolution:

Colonial Era (general):

Commerce and Trade:

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

The Law and Politics:



Atlases, Catalogs, and Indexes of primary sources:

Books (primary source):

Correspondence (Letters), Diaries, and Papers:

Images (primary source):

Newspapers (primary source):

TCNJ students researching the Spanish Conquest should consult one or more of the following primary source accounts, preferably one each from the Nahua (indigenous) and Spanish perspectives. If Gitenstein Library does not hold the book that interests you, simply request it through our ILL service.

Mexica (Aztec) and Tlaxcalan accounts are available in Saints and Warriors: Tlaxcalan Perspectives on the Conquest of Tenochtitlan (c2004); Victors and Vanquished: Spanish and Nahua Views of the Conquest of Mexico (c2000); We People Here: Nahuatl Accounts of the Conquest of Mexico (c1993); and most importantly in Miguel Leon Portilla's classic, The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico (c2007) [e-book], also available in Spanish.

Although written approximately eighty years after the Conquest, the account authored by Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, a direct descendent of Aztec royalty, is also highly valuable. Indeed, The Native Conquistador: Alva Ixtlilxochitl's Account of the Conquest of New Spain (c2015) provides a fascinating perspective on the role played by Texcoco — one of three city-states that comprised the Triple Alliance or Aztec Empire — in the Conquest. Read more about the life of Ixtlilxochitl in Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl and His Legacy (c2016).

Primary-source Spanish accounts can be found in the English translation of Cartas de Relación [Letters from Mexico] by Hernan Cortes (c1986), also available in Spanish; and in the English translation of Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España [The Conquest of New Spain] by Bernal Diaz del Castillo (c1963), available in Spanish here and here. Selections from 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 sources analyze and interpret the primary documents, situating them within the broader historiography. William Prescott's Conquest of Mexico (c1934), originally written in the nineteenth century, remains the standard history of the downfall of the Aztec Empire. Prescott's brilliant work is nonetheless a product of its time. A more recent contender for best 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), a book I highly recommend, challenges aspects of the standard accounts.

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 


Confederacy and the South

Medicine and Nursing in the Civil War

Women and the Civil War

(North and South)

By Source Type:


(also Diaries and Papers)


(Caricatures, Cartoons, and Photographs)



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, and Photographs):


Online Primary Sources for Environmental History

By Era:

Environmental History


Early Environmental Movement

(c 1800-1945)

Modern Environmental Movement



Environmental History (general):

Early Environmental Movement (c. 1800-1945):

Modern Environmental Movement (c. 1946-present):

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:

Find below links to online primary sources that inform scholars' understanding of the history of indigenous peoples north of the Rio Grande. Find additional primary sources in print by searching the Gitenstein Library catalog for <"Indians of North America" AND (sources OR narratives OR correspondence)>. Well worth consulting is the libguide authored by John Harrison, Librarian at Michigan State University, titled Native American Studies: Primary Sources.

Online Primary Sources for Native American History

Native American History


By Culture Region:

East of the Mississippi

(Eastern Woodlands, Ohio Valley, and the Southeast)

The Great Plains and Intermountain West

(Plains, Great Basin, Southwest)

West Coast

(California, Northwest Coast)


Native American History (general):

East of the Mississippi:

The Great Plains and Intermountain West:

West Coast:

Online Primary Sources for the History of Religion

By Religion and Religious Denominations:



Agnosticism and Atheism










(multiple denominations)



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):







Protestantism (multiple denominations):



Early Christianity (Late Antiquity) and the Medieval Church:

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

Multiple historical eras:

Medieval Period (c. 500-1500):

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

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

Source Type

online primary sources by type of source

HathiTrustFind in this category digitized reproductions of full-text primary source books.

Begun in 2008, HathiTrust Digital Library is a digital preservation repository asking to JSTOR, though primarily if not exclusively for public domain books. Titles were digitized from the collections of major research libraries. HathiTrust partners include Google, the Internet Archive, Microsoft, and others.

Any researcher with an internet connection can access HathiTrust e-books in the public domain, currently around 3,000,000 titles published prior to 1924!  HathiTrust is similar to Google Books but the materials are better described and organized.


Gitenstein Library Databases:

Other Libraries and Archives:

Find in this category digitized reproductions of full-text primary source documents including advertisements, broadsides, cartoons, clippings, diaries, election tickets, letters, memoirs and other personal narratives, menus, oral histories, programs, scripts, songs, speeches, and even timetables.

Gitenstein Library Databases:

Gitenstein Library E-Books:

Other Libraries and Archives:

Find in this category digitized reproductions of full-text primary source documents that originated with federal and other governmental agencies.

Many online government documents are discoverable via the Gitenstein Library Catalog. From the Basic search page, enter your search term(s) into the blank text box, select Government Documents from the "Limit To:" box, and then click the Search button.

Search for government documents on the open web:

  • Google: Include in your search site:gov, for example <Mexico site:gov>)
  • The Government Publishing Office's FDsys (Federal Digital System); govinfo will replace FDsys in December 2018
  •, the U.S. government's official web portal

Canadian government documents can be searched on the experimental FRED system, University of British Columbia.

Gitenstein Library Databases:

Gitenstein Library E-Books:

Other Libraries and Archives:

Find in this category links to digitized reproductions of primary works of literature. Literary works encompass authors' manuscripts (e.g., diaries, letters and notebooks written by hand); interviews or speeches given by authors; historical newspapers and other periodicals that contain book and play reviews (i.e., the initial reaction to a creative work); and other ephemeral documents generated contemporaneously with the creative work.

For a more extensive definition of primary sources see the What are Primary Sources? page of this research guide.

Gitenstein Library Catalog:

Find primary literary works, mostly in printed books held by Gitenstein Library, by clicking on the following Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):

Looking for a play? The library holds over 270 plays published by the Dramatists Play Service.

If you're looking for primary works of literature by country, use the formula below. Substitute "English" for American to find works by British authors, "German" for American for German authors and so on.

Or by genre:

American and English Literature:

American Literature Only:

English Literature Only:

Find in this category digitized historical maps from countries around the world. 

Also worth exploring, in addition to the map sites below, is the National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS), University of Minnesota. "The National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) provides free online access to summary statistics and GIS boundary files for U.S. censuses and other nationwide surveys from 1790 through the present."

Gitenstein Library E-Books:

Other Libraries and Archives:

Find in this category historical media such as drawings and paintings, still photographs and videos that originated mostly from the United States and United Kingdom.

All are open-source except for ARTstor and Vanderbilt Television News Archive, both licensed Gitenstein Library databases.

Gitenstein Library Databases:

Other Libraries and Archives: