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Primary Resources for French Studies: Other Free Web Sites

This is a guide for finding primary sources about France/the French, including Special Collections' French Monarchy Collection.

Other Free Web sites

Free primary source web sites are also to be found in the research guide called France: History and Literature.

Archives Charlie a Harvard

The attacks of January 7, 8 and 9 2015 against Charlie Hebdo (periodical's offices) and a kosher supermarket in Paris have started a vigorous debate on fundamental issues such as freedom of expression, relation between state, religion and society, respect for other beliefs and perspectives than our own, inequalities, and the disenfranchisement of individuals and communities. Goal is to preserve manuscript, printed, digital, and ephemeral materials produced in the aftermath of these events. These materials will be archived by Harvard Library, and made available for research and education to scholars, teachers, and students.  Site available in both French and English.

Archives Nationales d'Outre Mer

As the heir to more than three centuries of history, the Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer keeps two large collections with different administrative and archive pasts.  One is the archives of the Secretariats of State and the Ministries responsible for the French colonies from the XVIIth Century to the XXth Century.  The other is the archives transferred from the former colonies and Algeria when independence took place between 1954 and 1962, apart from the management archives which remained in the countries concerned. To these are added private and company archives relating to the Overseas Territories as well as a specialised library, map library and image library.  Use their Instruments de Rechercrecherchene (IREL-Anom) database.

Archives Portal Europe

Provides access to information on archival material from different European countries as well as information on archival institutions throughout the continent.  It searches archival finding aids available online and then users must go to the home page of the institution holding the material sought.  For European cultural and political history.

Bibliotheque Mazarine


This is a portal to collections documenting the cultural heritage of Brittany (France). Its search engine allows you to search across the digitized collections of several institutions.  Materials included: pictures and postcards, press archives, learned societies' bulletins, funds re academic research, oral heritage archives, audiovisual archives, museum collections, heritage and architectural inventories, iconography, maps, plans, manuscripts and other rare material.  It also offers thematic dossiers about Breton history, which can be discovered through a timeline or an interactive map. The interface is available in French, Breton and English (with some limitations).

Mazarinum is the name of the digital collections of the Mazarine Library, Paris.  It contains 15th-19th century books, archival documents, illustrated materials, photographic materials, the original Encyclopedie of Diderot.  They have begun digitizing items from their collection, found here, also harvested by the digital sites Gallica and Europeana.


e rara

The platform for digitized rare books from Swiss libraries.  Almost 17,000 Swiss printed items. 15th-20th centuries.  Browse keywords, titles, authors, or search through  thematic collections on alchemy/magic/Kabbalah, anatomy, historical scientific literature, Swiss children's and young people's books, Vitruviana, birds, works of Rousseau, 18th-19th c. works printed in Ticino, works from Rheinau Monastery, 17th c. Italian prose and poetry, Fondo Giani, Library of the Naturforschende Gesellschaft Zurich, Bibliotheque des Pasteurs, 18th-19th c. Bernensia,  Limit by language, range of dates, publisher, place of publication, type of material (book, map, illustrated material, music print), holding library.

European History Primary Sources

Provides access to scholarly digital repositories and other portals dealing with all facts of European history, from ancient to modern times.  Browse by country, language, subject, time period, type of resources.  Types of resources: dictionaries, drawings, interviews, letters, maps, pamphlets, photos, posters, sheet music, more.


Europeana enables people to explore the digital resources of Europe's museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections. It promotes discovery and networking opportunities in a multilingual space where users can engage, share in and be inspired by the rich diversity of Europe's cultural and scientific heritage.

Ideas and inspiration can be found within the more than 14.6 million items on Europeana. These objects include:

  • Images - paintings, drawings, maps, photos and pictures of museum objects
  • Texts - books, newspapers, letters, diaries and archival papers
  • Sounds - music and spoken word from cylinders, tapes, discs and radio broadcasts
  • Videos - films, newsreels and TV broadcasts

Some items and topics are world famous, like Isaac Newton's book about the Laws of Motion, the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Johannes Vermeer's painting of the Girl With A Pearl Earring or objects about the Berlin Wall. Others are hidden treasures, waiting for you to discover them.

Around 1500 institutions have contributed to Europeana. Renowned names such as the British Library in London, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre in Paris are featured alongside smaller organisations across Europe. Together, their assembled collections allow you to explore Europe's history from ancient times to the modern day.

Whether you find a celebrated work or a lesser known object, Europeana always connects you to the original source of the material so you can be sure of its authenticity.

French Digital Diplomatic Archives

Provides access to several thousand digitized documents from the Ministry as well as documents from Gallica selected for their cultural and historical interest. Categories include diplomatic history, treaties, agreements and conventions, French mandates and protectorates, and official intergovernmental and foreign publications. It will be added to on a regular basis.  This site explains about it.

French Revolution Digital Archive. The French Revolution Digital Archive (FRDA) is a collaboration of the Stanford University Libraries and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) to produce a digital version of the key research sources of the French Revolution. The archive is based around two main resources, the Archives parlementaires and a vast corpus of images first brought together in 1989 and known as the Images de la Revolution française.


Making of Charlemagne's Europe (MCE)

Offers a single, unified database framework for the extraction of prosopographical and socio-economic data found in early medieval legal documents. Legal documents contain an extraordinary wealth of information for the political, social and economic history of this period. The aim of this project is to offer a common framework capable of extracting and comparing the data contained within legal documents, while still, at the same time, allowing users to identify and control for the most significant distortions typically affecting this material (such as modes of transmission, e.g. via an original or a later copy). The second aim is to apply this framework to legal documents surviving from the reign of Charlemagne (25 September 768 to 28 January 814 AD). Over four thousand charters survive from the reign of Charlemagne; the database includes almost a thousand of them, selected for maximum variety in types of repository, modes of transmission, geographical area, recipients and issuers, etc.

Newberry French Revolutionary Collection Pamphlets

The Chicago, Illinois Newberry Library's French Revolution Collection consists of more than 30,000 pamphlets and more than 23,000 issues of 180 periodicals published between 1780 and 1810. The collection was acquired by the Newberry between 1957 and 1961 from Michel Bernstein, a book dealer in Paris. There are complete runs of well-known journals, as well as many rare and unknown publications. The collection represents the opinions of all the factions that opposed and defended the monarchy during the turbulent period between 1789-1799 and also contains innumerable ephemeral publications of the early Republic. While the majority of the pamphlets were printed in Paris by the Imprimerie nationale, there are also significant numbers of provincial publishers and fictitious imprints.

Presse Local Ancienne (Bibliotheque Nationale de France)

Based on the ongoing print Bibliographie de la Presse Francaise Politique et d’Information Generale (Main PN 5174 .F735 1964), this site offers online access to the bibliographical information about individual news titles and access to digitized copies, sourced from Gallica (BNF website) or other digital libraries.

RetroNews (BNF-Partenariats with Immanens)
Corpus of French Newspapers published 1631-1945.  Content is drawn from titles digitised from microfilm as well as titles already available in Gallica (BNF site).  A "freemium" model website in which it contains a mixture of free content available to all internet users and premium charged services.

USTC, Universal Short-Title Catalogue

USTC is a freely accessible database of bibliographical entries, with library holdings information, for books printed in Europe between the invention of printing and the end of the sixteenth century. Its purpose is akin to the ESTC, English Short Title Catalogue, also in our electronic resources. USTC began as a professor's project at University of St. Andrews to "survey French religious books, intended as a contribution to the study of the Reformation. But it proved impossible to make sense of French Protestantism without also creating a bibliography of Catholic books; then it seemed important to survey all French vernacular imprints, to establish how religious books fitted into the economy of print. It was only when this first project was nearing completion in 2007 that we conceived the more ambitious goal of extending our work on France to all of Europe." Then the project surveyed holdings in over 300 French libraries, particularly municipal libraries, which have many early printed books seized during the French Revolution. The project then "turned its attention to other areas of Europe for which there were no comprehensive surveys of early print: notably the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and the Low Countries." They are now working to include entries from German and Italian libraries There are links to some freely accessible, full texts.


VERSPERA Research Project, Digitisation and Modelling of the Plans Relating to Versailles Under the Ancien Regime

The VERSPERA research project, Digitisation and modelling of the plans relating to Versailles under the Ancien Régime, aims to make the plans of the Versailles Estate under the Ancien Régime available to the public and to restore some of the missing parts through 3D modelling.  Read about it; see images.



Organized in 1900 Le Vieux-Papier society has over 500 member organizations.  Their concern is with the documents printed on paper about daily life from the 15th century onwards, such as popular engraving, publicity materials, transportation schedules, games, notices, religious images, more.  Mouse over the "Qui Sommes Nous" tab near top left.  Click on "Liens Amis"; there is a list of links to other web sites.


There are some more free web sites in our guide to Researching the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era.



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