Skip to Main Content
Michigan State University

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. Last updated 06-26-2023

Other Free Web sites

An alphabetical list.

Free primary source web sites are also to be found in the research guides called France: History and Literature and Researching the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era.

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 Editoriales

Editorial Archives Project is a partnership for the preservation, analysis, and promotion of the archives of publishers of the Canadian and European Francophonie, from 1940-2015.  Click on the link Fonds d'Archives in the blue bar near top right.  You can choose to see Quebecois,  Franco-Canadian, French, Swiss, or Belgian.  For each there is an alphabetical lists of publishers.  Click on each to learn dates of the collection, where held, physical size, and description of the contents.

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.

Base de Francais Medieval

From Univ. de Lyon.  Contains 170 complete Old and Middle French texts, written from 9th through end of the 15th centuries.


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).

Catalogue Collectif de la France

The French collective catalog (CCFr) is a tool for querying several catalogs of French libraries, some of which are located abroad. It is supplemented by a national directory of libraries and documentary funds (RNBFD).  Since February 2001, it has been entrusted to the National Library of France (department of cooperation).

CCFR Catalogue Collectif de France

National Union Catalog effort of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.   Over 30 million documents.  Click on the A Propos link near top right of entry screen for a description of the contents, which are always being added to. 

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 Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe

This project uses database technology to map the French book trade across late-Enlightenment Europe, between 1769 and 1794.  It charts best-selling texts and authors; reading tastes across Europe; changing patterns of demand over time; and networks of exchange in the print-trade. The project tracks the movement of around 400,000 copies of 4,000 books across Europe.  It details, where possible, the exact editions of these works, the routes by which they travelled and the locations of the clients that bought or sold them. To the original database, they added, in Dec., 2022, records of over 25 auction sales at Parisian Chambre syndicale de la librairie et imprimerie; records of licensed print runs for books under new Permission simple license from 1778; records of pirated books...1778-1780; records of all titles suspended at Parisian customs inspections... 1770-1791; inventory of all books found in Bastille's secret depot following its capture by the revolutionary crowds, most but not all were highly illegal.  Old site is still available at

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 Embassy in the U.S.

Type "free electronic resources" into the search box at top right.  There are nearly 500 clickable documents resulting.

French Renaissance Paleography

Paleography is the history and study of handwriting. Old scripts can be very beautiful, but sometimes difficult to read. This site presents over 100 carefully selected French manuscripts written between 1300 and 1700, with tools for deciphering them and learning about their social, cultural, and institutional settings. A free database through Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

French Revolution Images: Iconography from the Collections of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France

Provides access to the most complete searchable digital archive of French Revolution images available. It is based on a benchmark image-base, Images de la Révolution Française developed by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France at the Revolution’s bicentennial in 1989. The Images were originally offered in analog format on laserdisc.  The BnF rescanned at high resolution 5,126 of the images on the laserdisc from the original materials. All 5,126 images are now available online. They  were selected from across the BnF’s departments, and include thousands of images from important 19th and early 20th century collections. All images are from the period from 1787 through 1799. Only visual materials directly tied to the Revolution itself are included. Search by artist, subject, genre, and place; browse within various themes.  A spreadsheet of the full metadata can also be accessed via the The Standford Digital Repository.

French Studies

This guide is a list of scholarly resources in French Studies. Intended primarily for librarians; it may be useful to scholars in this field.  It is curated and managed by members of the European Studies Section (ESS) of the Association of College & Research Libraries. Users are free to copy and edit content from this guide for their own purposes.

Institut Memoires de l'Edition Contemporaine

(IMEC), translated as The Institute for Contemporary Publishing Archives, is a French institution created in 1988 at the initiative of researchers and professionals in French publishing to gather archives and studies related to the main French publishing houses. It also collects material concerning French magazines and various other players in French literary life. It is a not for profit organisation. Since 2004 it has been based at the Ardenne Abbey near Caen, Normandy, where it has a library of 80,000 books, and more than 15 km of shelving. The reading room is open to researchers.

League of Nations Archives

McCord Museum

Is a social history museum devoted to the history and heritage of Montreal, Quebec, and Canada. Has online collections.

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.

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.


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.

Notable European Studies Holdings in North America

From ALA ACRL European Studies Section.  You can click on "By Language" and see links to French collections of note.

Paris Musees

“Paris Musées is a public entity that oversees the 14 municipal museums of Paris, including the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Petit Palais, and the Catacombs,” writes Hyperallergic. “Users can download a file that contains a high definition (300 DPI) image, a document with details about the selected work, and a guide of best practices for using and citing the sources of the image.” The fact that the entire collection is public domain means that the public can use the images for any purpose, including commercial ones.


Offers a selection of digitized documents from the collection of precious books, published between the 15th and 18th centuries, and kept in the library of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.  This collection illustrates the fields of the history and philosophy of science, and more specifically the scientific works by Swiss authors. Thus, thousands of images from books that have entered the public domain (maps, plans, old prints, manuscripts and incunabula) are directly accessible and downloadable.


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.


Visitors to Versailles Database

The purpose of this tool is to draw up a list of the personal accounts of foreign visitors to the domain, palace and court of Versailles, in order to examine how the “Versailles myth” was disseminated throughout Europe. The period in question will extend from the reign of Louis XIV to the end of the 19th century, in order to establish how opinions about this place evolved, from the moment it established itself as the centre of royal power to when it became a testimony to a monarchical past. The corpus brings together a variety of texts: memoires, travel accounts, letters and even diaries, written by authors of diverse social and geographical origins. From the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles, directed by Gérard Sabatier.