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Primary Source Search Tips
To find primary sources in the MSU Library catalog, add the following search terms as keywords or subjects to your search:
- personal narratives
An example search for primary sources would look something like this:
"War of 1812" AND correspondence
What is a Primary Source?
Primary sources provide direct or firsthand evidence about an event, person, or object. These sources are contemporary to the events and people described, meaning that they were often created during the time being studied or by those who witnessed an event firsthand.
Examples of primary sources include: newspapers, diaries, letters, memoirs and autobiographies, speeches, photographs, and government documents.
Primary Resources at MSU
American History, 1493-1945 This link opens in a new window
This unique collection documents American History from the earliest settlers to the mid-twentieth century. It is sourced from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the finest archives available for the study of American History.
American Periodicals Series This link opens in a new window
"This database contains periodicals published between 1740 and 1940, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children's and women's magazines and many other historically-significant periodicals."
Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600 - 2000 This link opens in a new window
Women and Social Movements is intended to serve as a resource for students and scholars of U.S. history and U.S. women's history. Organized around the history of women in social movements in the U.S. between 1700 and 2000, the website seeks to advance scholarly debates and understanding at the same time that it makes the insights of women's history accessible to teachers and students at universities, colleges, and high schools. The database includes more than 25,000 pages of documents pertaining to Women and Social Movements, a dictionary of social movements and organizations, a chronology of U.S. women's history, and teaching tools with lesson ideas and document-based questions related to the website's document projects
Political Extremism and Radicalism in the 20th Century This link opens in a new window
Political Extremism and Radicalism in the Twentieth Century is a compilation of rare and unique archival collections covering a wide range of fringe political movements. It has been sourced from distinguished libraries and archives across the world but also premiers some previously hidden treasure troves.
Includes content from MSU's American Radicalism Collection, among many other sources.
Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) This link opens in a new window
Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) contains digital versions of 150,000 works published or printed from 1701-1800 in England, and other English-speaking places around the world (including the rest of the British Isles, the American colonies, and the early United States).
Look here to find full texts of primary source materials in history, geography, literature, language, religion, philosophy, social science, fine arts, music, architecture, medicine, science, technology, and law, as well as general reference works from the 18th century.
The database also includes works in other western European languages which were published or printed in England or other English-speaking places during this time.
American Historical Periodicals Series 1-6 Digital Archive This link opens in a new window
Access on the Gale platform to American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection: Colonial Era through the Civil War and Reconstruction, providing digital access to a comprehensive collection of American periodicals published between 1684 and 1912.
Times Digital Archive, 1785 - 2014 This link opens in a new window
Search the complete digital edition of The Times (London) to retrieve full facsimile images of either a specific article or a complete page. The entire newspaper is captured, with all articles, advertisements, and illustrations/photos divided into categories to facilitate searching. For online access to the London Times 1985 onwards, check the online catalog using a periodical title search for Times. It is also available on microfilm in the Hollander Make Central, 2nd floor West wing.
Sabin Americana, 1500-1926 This link opens in a new window
Joseph Sabin’s Bibliotheca Americana: A Dictionary of Books Relating to America from Its Discovery to the Present Time has been heralded as a cornerstone in the study of the history of the Western Hemisphere. Gale’s Sabin Americana, 1500-1926 takes the works currently captured from that bibliography and makes them available online.
Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans 1639-1800 This link opens in a new window Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800 is the definitive resource for information about every aspect of life in 17th- and 18th-century America, from agriculture and auctions through foreign affairs, diplomacy, literature, music, religion, the Revolutionary War, temperance, witchcraft, and just about any other topic imaginable. This resource consists of more than 37,000 books, pamphlets, and broadsides.
Early American Imprints, Series II: Shaw-Shoemaker Supplement 2 From The American Antiquarian Society 1801-1819 This link opens in a new window
Books, pamphlets, and broadsides published during the early 19th century from the bibliography by Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker; Published in cooperation with the American Antiquarian Society
American Indian Histories and Culture This link opens in a new window
Sources From The Edward E. Ayer Collection At The Newberry Library, Chicago. Spanning four centuries and covering North and Central America, American Indian Histories and Cultures presents unique materials from one of the finest archival collections on American Indian history and culture available.
North American Indian Thought and Culture This link opens in a new window
This fifth release of North American Indian Thought and Culture contains over 119,000 pages of text and images. Included are biographies, auto-biographies, personal narratives, speeches, diaries, letters, and oral histories. When complete North American Indian Thought and Culture will include 123,000 pages of text and images.
Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers This link opens in a new window
Over 400 U.S. newspapers, published between 1800 and 1900. Papers selected cover a broad spectrum, with a comprehensive geographical and chronological range. Also includes commissioned scholarly essays on topics and events such as the Confederacy, immigration, and elections.
ProQuest Historical Newspapers This link opens in a new window
Includes the full text of: Atlanta Constitution (1868-1988), Baltimore Sun (1837-1991), Boston Globe (1872-1985), Chicago Tribune (1849-1993), Christian Science Monitor (1908-2003), Detroit Free Press (1831-1999), L.A. Times (1881-1993), Louisville Courier Journal (1830-1922), Nashville Tennessean (1812-1922), SF Chronicle (1865-1922), New York Times (1851-2013), Wall Street Journal (1889-1999), Washington Post (1877-2000), Jerusalem Post 1932-1988), and the Times of India (1838-2007). It also includes historical black newspapers: Atlanta Daily World (1931-2003), Chicago Defender (1909-1975), Los Angeles Sentinel (1934-2005) New Amsterdam News (1922-1993), and the Pittsburgh Courier (1911-2002). Finally, it contains these aggregations: "Ethnic NewsWatch" (1959-present) and "ProQuest Civil War Era" (selected newspapers and pamphlets from 1850-1870).
British Newspapers 1600-1950 This link opens in a new window
Indexing and links to full texts of newspaper articles in London and English provincial newspapers. Also covers a few Continental newspapers.
American Religion: Denominational Newspapers This link opens in a new window
This resource provides:
- Exclusive focus on American denominational newspapers during the age of religion
- More than 320 newspapers from 30-plus states, all published between 1799 and 1900
- Important commentary on such social issues as slavery, women’s suffrage and the Temperance movement
American Indian Newspapers This link opens in a new window
From historic pressings to contemporary periodicals, explore nearly 200 years of Indigenous print journalism from the US and Canada. With newspapers representing a huge variety in publisher, audience and era, discover how events were reported by and for Indigenous communities. 1828-2016.
This resource has been developed with, and has only been made possible by, the permission and contribution of the newspaper publishers and Tribal Councils concerned.
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.
Pioneering in the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin ca. 1820-1910
The collection's 138 volumes depict the land and its resources; the conflicts between settlers and Native peoples; the experience of pioneers and missionaries, soldiers and immigrants and reformers; the growth of local communities and local cultural traditions; and the development of regional and national leadership in agriculture, business, medicine, politics, religion, law, journalism, education, and the role of women.
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs
Search the digitized prints and photographs collections held by the Library of Congress. Collections of note include Cartoon Prints, American; Fine Prints; Drawings (Documentary); and Popular Graphic Arts.
ARTstor This link opens in a new window
ARTstor is a digital image database containing over 1 million images. Images are grouped into collections and represent the canon of art history (as defined by major art history survey texts) as well as specialized collections such as the MoMA Architecture and Design Collection and the Huntington Archive of Asian Art.