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.

HIST 417: Making of Modern America

Primary Sources

Primary sources are documents and other artifacts that are produced in the time that an event occurred. This could include, for example, a photograph, a letter or diary, a piece of government legislation, and much more. The document or artifact has not yet gone through a secondary analysis by a scholar, so it is sort of "raw evidence" for your topic. But note: All primary sources are produced in a particular time, by a particular person or organization,  with its own values or viewpoint. It is critical to recognize this when bringing your primary source into your research: Who produced it, and why? There are numerous primary sources you can use in your analysis, and it is up to you to determine what illustrates your argument. Your instructor or librarian can assist you with this.

PLEASE REMEMBER: When searching for primary sources of the time, you must use terminology from that time. For example, articles published during WWI will instead use the term "Great War" (WWI was not a term until WWII happened!). They were not calling it "Progressive Era" during the time - that was applied later. So you must put yourselves in the shoes of those living in that time. Encyclopedia articles are great places to get this terminology.

For locating primary sources in books, see the Locating Books tab.

The Library of Congress has a number of excellent research guides on historical topics, which contain further reading, featured books, an overview of your topic, and digital primary sources. The link is below.

Lonestar College Library pulled together *amazing* lists of digital primary source collections, including on topics pertaining to this course. Below is the page for the Gilded Age/Progressive Eras; see the buttons on the left for more!

Digital Text Collections and Primary Source Databases

These databases, via WSU Libraries, contain numerous primary sources that can provide a picture into the refugee experience around the world.

Historical Newspapers and Periodicals

You can use historical newspaper articles for short takes on major events or people related to your topic; these provide a look into what was happening at a given time, from the perspective of those reporting. How these events or people are reported will depend greatly on the type of publication.

General Archives and Digital Collections

Below are examples of very general collections of primary sources. To search for primary sources, it is best to not search generally (e.g. "refugee") as this will bring back numerous results. Instead, use the background research you have done to try searching for primary sources related to a specific person, organization, piece of legislation, or event.

WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us