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.

US History I Research: Primary Sources

First-hand historical documents such as letters, treaties, or diaries.

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are first-hand documents or artifacts of particular interest to historians. These include recordings , photographs, paintings, personal diaries, films, or other objects that provide primary data. When you are looking for primary sources, pay attention to when the document or object was created, and by whom. A primary source will generally be something that provides information from a concurrent person, that is, a person who witnessed the particular event you are researching, or perhaps is even the subject of your research. For example, if you are doing a report on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War- primary sources would include: letters written by eyewitnesses of the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln's Diary, photographs of soldiers involved in the war, artifacts from the war like weapons, drawings, or even marching orders. Primary sources are preferred by historians because they provide a direct connection to people and events in the past.

Issues and Controversies in American History

Links to Primary Sources in American History

Ask a Librarian

chat