What are Primary and Secondary Sources?

Historians use a wide variety of sources to answer questions about the past. In their research, history scholars use both primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources are actual records that have survived from the past, such as letters, photographs, articles of clothing. Secondary sources are accounts of the past created by people writing about events sometime after they happened.

For example, your history textbook is a secondary source. Someone wrote most of your textbook long after historical events took place. Your textbook may also include some primary sources, such as direct quotes from people living in the past or excerpts from historical documents.

People living in the past left many clues about their lives. These clues include both primary and secondary sources in the form of books, personal papers, government documents, letters, oral accounts, diaries, maps, photographs, reports, novels and short stories, artifacts, coins, stamps, and many other things. Historians call all of these clues together the historical record.

(From the Library of Congress Learning Page <http://memory.loc.gov/learn/lessons/psources/source.html>)

See your librarian for books containing primary sources.

PANDA Databases & Search Engines

PQ Historical Newspapers *

CQ Supreme Court Collection *

Discovering Collection *

AP Photo *

(*not available at all locations -- check your own school's Panda page under Reference & Research)

netTrekker d.i.


Web Resources:

Missouri and St. Louis History

American History


World History


Speeches/Oral History

Editorial Cartoons

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