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Primary Sources in American History (J495): Home

Provides links to collections of primary sources that chronicle American history from 1500-1865.


This guide is designed to help you find primary sources that chronicle American history from 1500-1865 using the databases and collections available through the IUS Library.  Use the tabs at the top of the page to navigate to each section.  

If you have any questions or you get stuck, you can talk with a reference librarian at 812.941.2489 or email me directly.

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred, or well after events occurred.  Primary sources may include:

  • letters
  • manuscripts
  • diaries
  • journals
  • oral histories
  • newspapers
  • speeches
  • interviews
  • memoirs
  • government documents
  • photographs
  • audio recordings
  • video recordings


These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past.  When they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research. 

Below is a video produced by the University of California San Diego Social Sciences & Humanities Library, which may help explain the difference between primary and secondary sources of information.

Kate Moore