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Primary Sources for History

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Primary Sources

Context Creates Primary Sources

What makes something a primary or secondary source is not so much about when it was created, but rather its purpose in the course of your historic investigation. 


Primary Source Definition

Usually, a primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event.


Types of Primary Sources


Original Documents

  • Excerpts or translations are acceptable. Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records. 


Creative Works 

  • Poetry, drama, novels, music, art


Relics or artifacts

  • Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings


Examples of Primary Sources

  • Diary of Anne Frank - Experiences of a Jewish family during WWII 
  • The Constitution of Canada - Canadian History 
  • A journal article reporting NEW research or findings 
  • Weavings and pottery - Native American history 
  • Plato's Republic - Women in Ancient Greece 

Primary vs. Secondary Sources