Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

History 322: The Cold War in Europe: Primary Sources

Strategies for Identifying Primary Sources

1.  Use subject encyclopedias to identify available primary source materials.  For example, if the entry mentions someone's memoir, you'll know to run an author search Primo to find it (and see whether it has been translated into English).

2.  Browse through thematic anthologies of primary sources.  There may be something a document within the collection that will be useful to you.

3.  Cast your net widely by also considering art, photographs, films, radio broadcasts, television shows, propaganda posters, etc.

4.  Be flexible!  Depending on what primary sources are available, you may need to approach your topic from a different angle.

Primary Sources: Online Collections on the Open Web

  • Cold War International History Project Virtual Archive
    The Woodrow Wilson Center explains that the Cold War History Project "supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War, and seeks to accelerate the process of integrating new sources, materials and perspectives from the former "Communist bloc" with the historiography of the Cold War which has been written over the past few decades largely by Western scholars reliant on Western archival sources. It also seeks to transcend barriers of language, geography, and regional specialization to create new links among scholars interested in Cold War history."
  • National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Books
    "National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Books provide online access to critical declassified records on issues including U.S. national security, foreign policy, diplomatic and military history, intelligence policy, and more."
  • EuroDocs: Online Sources for European History
    Although not focused exclusively on the Cold War years, this digital library does include relevant documents related to the time period, organized by country.
  • Cold War Studies at Harvard University:  Includes digitized copies of archival documents, mostly in Russian.
  • Making the History of 1989:  Based at George Mason University, includes a collection of translated documents from Eastern European countries from the 1980s.
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Archives:  Selections from broadcasts during the Cold War.
  • Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Online:  "The digital collection consists chiefly of summary transcripts of 705 interviews conducted with refugees from the USSR during the early years of the Cold War."
  • Parallel History Project:  Provides declassified (and often translated) documents relating to the Cold War in Europe.

Primary Sources: Anthologies

Here is a sampling of primary source collections in Collins Library.  You also should use Library of Congress Subject Headings to expand your search to  SUMMIT libraries.

 
1968, the world transformed Call #: D839.2 .A17 1998 Books
 
Twentieth century Europe; a documentary history, Author: Fischer-Galati, Stephen A.,|ecomp Call #: D411 .F5 1967 Books
 
At Cold War's End : US Intelligence on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Call #: PREX 3.2:C 67 Federal Docs INTERNET Reference Electronic
 
1989 : democratic revolutions at the Cold War's end : a brief history with documents Author: Kenney, Padraic, 1963- Call #: D860 .K46 2010 Books

Primary Source Collections: Library Databases

Primary Sources: Additional Avenues

Collins Library has the print runs of many twentieth-century journals and magazines, located in the library basement.  One title that may be of interest to you:

Polish Perspectives is a quarterly English-language journal produced by the Polish Institute of International AffairsCollins Library holds volumes 4 through 32 (1961-1989).   Each issue typically includes translations of speeches by government leaders; essays on various topics by Polish academicians; interviews with culturally significant individuals; translations of literary works; short, translated excerpts of editorials from Polish newspapers; and short reviews of recently published books.

Arts and Culture

Depending on your approach, examples from the arts (films, literary works, performing arts, art exhibits) may also be of interest:

  • How was the Cold War depicted in film?  You might look at examples of espionage thrillers, or science fiction films.
  • How were the performing arts used as propaganda?  You could look at the traveling tours of the Bolshoi Ballet.