Historical Primary Sources

Information on primary sources--what they are, how to find them, and how to use and cite them.

Practical Considerations

Some types of primary sources can be readily found and used anywhere, for example printed primary sources like popular 19th century novels (most libraries have books by Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorn, and Jane Austen.)

Digital primary sources are also easy to access, whether they are freely available like those at the Library of Congress, or in subscription databases of digital primary sources purchased by JHU.

Other primary sources are rare, fragile, and not available digitally. We have many of these types of sources in our Special Collections and Archives. However, others may not be available at JHU or locally.

If you are just starting your research process, take some time to brainstorm what types of primary sources you will need to answer your research question. Then make sure you will be able to access the sources you need.

Primary Sources at Johns Hopkins

How do historians find primary sources? Researchers like yourself have access to several tools to use when searching for primary sources. To use those tools most effectively, consider the tips section below to plan your search strategy.

Click to go to TipsClick to go to Tools