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Guide to Online Primary Sources   Tags: history, mmw, primary sources  

Subject listings of primary sources available online: free web collections as well as UCSD subscription-based resources. Includes a custom Google search engine to keyword search across many of the listed sites.
Last Updated: Jun 19, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Custom Google

Use this box to search the web for primary sources. Only collections marked with an asterisk (*) in this guide will be searched.


Search this Guide

Search tips: The default search is AND (civil AND war). Use the | character for an OR search (war | military); use ! to exclude words (war ! civil); or use quotes to search for a phrase ("civil war").



Primary source research often strikes fear into students, who may not understand what primary sources are or how to find them. This guide concentrates on the "how to find them" part of the equation, linking to hundreds of free primary source collections on the web as well as collections to which UCSD subscribes.

The custom Google search engine (see box at left) will search collections in this guide identified by an asterisk (*). Please be aware, though, that you are encouraged to go directly to collections that may be of interest and browse the available resources.

Other primary source assistance at the UCSD Library includes: a short YouTube video that explains what primary sources are; the library catalog for finding primary documents in the library; search tips on the "Need More?" tab of this guide; and, you can always ask a librarian for help.

Key Sites

  • American Memory*
    "American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity."
  • Avalon Project*
    Digital documents relevant to the fields of law, history, economics, politics, diplomacy and government from ancient times to the 21st century.
  • Empire Online  Icon
    A major collection of scanned texts relating to empire studies, divided into 5 sections: Cultural Contacts 1492-1969; Empire Writing/the Literature of Empire; The Visible Empire; Religion; and Race, class, imperialism and colonialism 1607-2007.
  • EuroDocs: Online Sources for European History*
    One of the best places to start for all time periods of European history. Extensive collection of primary sources and links to other sites. Browse by broad era (prehistory/ancient, medieval/renaissance, modern) or by country.
  • Hanover Historical Texts Collection*
    Presents texts from ancient to modern times. Material touches on the Crusaders, Italian Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, French Revolution, and many other topics.
  • Internet History Sourcebooks*
    The Internet History Sourcebooks are collections of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts. Topics include Ancient, Medieval and Modern histories. Also presents material grouped by subject: Africa, East Asia, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Lesbian/Gay, Science and Women's history.
  • Making of the Modern World: the Goldsmiths'-Kress Library of Economic Literature  Icon
    Provides full-text and full-page-image access to books from the 1460-1850 period, and pre-1906 serials. It focuses on economics interpreted in the widest sense, including political science, history, sociology, and special collections on banking, finance, transportation and manufacturing.
  • The March of Time  Icon
    Streaming video of Time Inc.'s unique and controversial newsreel series, airing between 1935-1967. Covers a wide range of topics and geographic areas.
  • Online Library of Liberty*
    Full texts of almost 1500 classic works on art, economics, history, law, literature, music, philosophy, political theory, religion, science, sociology, war and peace.
  • World Digital Library
    Large, well-organized collection of print and visual primary sources from ancient to current times. Material may be browsed by place, time, topic, type of resource, or contributing institution.

Guide Author

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Kelly L. Smith
Contact Info
Government Information / Urban Studies & Planning Librarian
UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr. 0175R
La Jolla, CA 92093-0175
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Need help?

Use the Ask-A-Librarian reference service or visit/call the Research Assistance Desk (858-822-0450) from 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.


Remote Access

Remote access to resources marked with a red lock symbol is limited to UCSD students, faculty and staff.


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