Introduction to Primary Sources Definitions and Examples
Books Journal Articles Secondary sources Dissertations
Primary Sources: Definitions • “is material -- a document or other evidence -- that was created during the period or the event” • “historical raw materials” • “the leavings, the shards, the remnants of people who once lived and don't live anymore”
Written Visual Primary sources Oral
Historians & Primary Sources • Primary sources are the evidence used by historians in their analysis/interpretation of the past. • Good history books and scholarly journal articles (secondary sources) carefully cite the evidence in footnotes. • Primary sources help us make personal connections with the past.
Secondary Source Primary Sources Letters & diaries Books and newspapers published at the time Sermons & speeches Laws & other governmentmaterial Artifacts such as clothing, furniture, etc. Images Unpublished manuscriptmaterial
Analysis of primary sources • Time and Place Rule • The closer in time and place a source and its creator are to an event, the better the source • Direct traces contemporary accounts by firsthand observers/participants accounts of the events created later by first hand observers/participants • Congressional debate newspaper accounts of the debate/diary entries by participants/letters of observers memoirs of participants published years later
Analysis of primary sources • Bias Rule • Every source is biased in some way • Evidence must be read or viewed skeptically and critically • Creator’s point of view and motives must be considered • Each piece of evidence must be compared with other evidence