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World History (generally): Primary Sources

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources provide immediate, firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning an event or topic.
Examples of primary sources include letters and diaries; photographs, audio and motion picture recordings; transcribed speeches; books, newspapers and magazines published during the period under consideration; government documents and other publications; oral histories, autobiographies and memoirs; and even artifacts, like clothing, furniture, and other items of material culture from the period.

Broad-Ranging Primary Source Databases & Related Resources - World History

Bodleian History Faculty Library
A rich list of online information resources and tools for historians maintained by the University of Oxford’s Bodleian History Faculty Library.

Cambridge Digital Library
Digitized primary source material and research outputs from the University of Cambridge and its colleges.

Digital Bodleian
Digital Bodleian is an ongoing project of the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries that offers digitized images of manuscripts and early printed books, ephemera, maps, prints and portraits.

Digital Public Library of America
The Digital Public Library of America is a nonprofit organization that brings together on one platform digitized and born digital content from across the U.S. and the world, making it more readily accessible for public use.


You can find many primary source databases under the library research guides for:
  • World History by Period 
    • prehistory & ancient history
    • medieval history
    • early modern history
    • 19th & 20th centuries 
  • World History by Region
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Australia & Oceania
    • British Isles
    • Europe
    • Latin America
    • Middle East 
  • World History by Topic
    • Commerce, Commodities & Material Culture
    • Empires, Borderlands & their Legacies
    • Gender & Sexualities
    • Public History
    • History of Public Policy
    • Race & Ethnicity
    • Religion, Culture & Society
    • Science & Technology

How to Find Primary Sources via UCSB Library Search

To find primary sources via UC Library Search, search the Library Catalog and type in words that represent your general topic. Here we are searching for primary sources that have something to do with Renaissance women. 

In the top line, type in your topical words: women AND Renaissance.

UCSB Library Search - primary sources

In the line below your topical words, type in Subject words that represent primary sources. Such words include:

  • autobiographies
  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • journals
  • manuscripts
  • memoirs
  • pamphlets
  • personal narratives
  • sources
  • speeches, addresses etc.

Try different combinations of topical and Subject words to make sure that you are finding all of the primary sources available to you in the UCSB Library.

Guides to Collections of Primary Sources - World History

History Online
- Links to bibliographies, data sets, primary sources, subject gateways and many other online resources of interest to students of history, from the University of London's Institute of Historical Research (IHR).


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