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HISTORY: SUBJECT GUIDE: Primary Sources

Starting points for History research

Newspapers & Magazines - Digital Collections

Historical World Periodicals

Library of Congress Subject Headings for Primary Sources

Books in Primo are assigned Library of Congress Subject Headings.  In many ways, subject headings are a form of tagging, in that they represent the content of the material and provide ways for you to efficiently locate more materials that are conceptually related. 

Library of Congress Subject Headings are also quite useful for discovering primary sources. The following subheadings usually are added to indicate that the material is a primary source: sources, personal narratives, correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, or notebooks.  Once you've discovered the subject heading for secondary sources, try adding one of the primary source subheadings to see what you find.  Here are some examples:

Secondary source subject heading:  Chinese Americans -- History.
Primary source subject heading:   Chinese Americans -- History -- Sources.

Secondary source subject heading: Women -- Europe -- History -- Middle Ages, 500-1500.
Primary source subject heading: Women -- Europe --  History -- Middle Ages, 500-1500 -- Sources.

Secondary source subject heading:  United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
Primary source subject heading: United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives, Confederate.

 

Puget Sound Archives & Special Collections, History

The Archives & Special Collections collects, preserves, and makes available primary source material documenting life at the University as well as collections representing regional, national and international issues.

A small selection of material is listed below, for additional sources, please contact archives@pugetsound.edu.

The Oregon Methodist Missions papers, 1835-1858, contain letters describing the daily life, hardships, and deaths associated with the work of missionaries and their families in the Oregon territory.

The Albert W. Bash Papers, 1890-1910, contain correspondence, maps, photographs and newspaper clippings documenting Bash's involvement in the development of a scheme to extend U.S. railway lines across the Pacific Ocean and on through mainland China between 1895 and 1912. 

Herle, Charles, A fuller answer to a treatise written by Dr. Ferne..., 1642.

Street & Smith's Wild West Weekly, 1823-1843.

In addition, a small portion of photographshistorical documents, and digitized material are available online.  You can also browse archival and manuscript collections as well as rare books on Primo (limit the location to Archives & Special Collections on the left).

Online Collections

This is only a sampling of the collections out there, just to get you started!

What's a primary source?

Primary sources are original, uninterpreted information.  Scholars analyze primary sources in order to answer research questions. Examples of primary sources vary by discipline.

Examples in the humanities:

  • a novel
  • a painting
  • a theatre performance

Examples in the social sciences:

  • a political, social, or economic theory
  • a dataset
  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Example in the sciences:

  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Archives & Special Collections Hours

Spring 2020 update:

The Archives & Special Collections is currently unable to host in-person researchers. If you need assistance or would like to set up a virtual appointment, please email us at archives@pugetsound.edu.

A small selection of digitized material from the Archives & Special Collections is available online 24/7.

American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection

A full guide to the collection is available here.