Primary Sources Online A-Z: Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Professional Programs

Find selection of primary source databases from the University of Minnesota Libraries which support research in arts, humanities, history, social sciences, and more.

A note about open access collections

You can find resources freely available on the web, but you'll want to choose reliable sites. Before relying on the information provided by a website, examine and understand the purpose of the website. While the purpose might not affect the accuracy of the primary source material it contains, it might indicate that the material has been altered or manipulated in some way to change or influence its meaning. Sometimes sites use primary source material to persuade the reader to a particular point of view, distorting the contents in obvious or subtle ways. Also, sites can use primary source material haphazardly, without appropriately choosing, inspecting, or citing the work. In general, look for websites with a non-biased, balanced approach to presenting sources. Websites produced by educational or governmental institution usually are more reliable than personal websites. 

This is a dynamic and incomplete list. While these might be good starting place, depending on your research, there are many more institutions and collections, and no list could capture them all. Many more collections exist in a country's home language. Please contact a librarian for assistance. 

South Asia Primary Sources

Minnesota histories

Mapping Prejudice A project by the University of Minnesota, Red Lining and racial covenant policies are mapped to illustrate racial disparities in our local community. 

Minnesota Historical Society Search the states collections of newspapers, personal papers, photographs, objects, and more. 

Minnesota Reflections/Minnesota Digital Library Browse the historical collections of almost 200 institutions across Minnesota.

Umbra Search Umbra Search makes African American history more broadly accessible through a freely available widget and search tool, umbrasearch.org brings together hundreds of thousands digitized materials from over 1,000 libraries and archives across the country.

United States histories

American Indian Digital History Project A Digital History Cooperative founded to recover and preserve rare Indigenous newspapers, photographs, and archival materials from all across Native North America.

American Presidency Project  The American Presidency Project was established in 1999 as a collaboration between John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 Avalon Project at the Yale Law School (3,000 BCE+)  Selected digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government.

Chronicling America Search America's historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

David Rumsey Map Collection  This premier online map collection hosts over 60,000 historical maps and images.  The collection focuses on rare 16th through 20th Century maps of the world with the primary focus on maps of North and South America.

Digital Public Library of America The DPLA brings together millions of materials from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions across the country available to all in a one-stop discovery experience. Search thousands of collections at once. 

Documenting the American South  A collection of sources on Southern history, literature and culture from the colonial period through the first decades of the 20th century. Provides access to digitized primary materials that offer Southern perspectives on American history and culture.

Fraser(Federal Reserve Archive): The Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research (FRASER®) started in 2004 as a data preservation and accessibility project of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. FRASER’s mission is to safeguard and provide easy access to the nation’s economic history—particularly the history of the Federal Reserve System—through digitization of documents related to the U.S. financial system.  A great resource for the economic history of the United States

The Freedom Archives The Freedom Archives contains over 12,000 hours of audio and video recordings which date from the late-1960s to the mid-90s and chronicle the progressive history of the Bay Area, the United States, and international movements. 

Indigenous Digital Archive The Indigenous Digital Archive is here to help you explore the history of US goverment Indian boarding schools in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Indigenous Digital Archive Treaties Explorer While treaties between Indigenous peoples and the United States affect virtually every area in the USA, there is as yet no official list of all the treaties. The US National Archives holds 374 of the treaties, where they are known as the Ratified Indian Treaties. Here you can view them for the first time with key historic works that provide context to the agreements made and the histories of our shared lands.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook Presents a diversity of texts available on the Internet in the area of modern European history and modern Western Civilization. Designed to serve the interests of teachers and students in college survey courses in subjects such as: the Reformation; Ancien Regime; Industrial Revolution; American and French Revolutions; Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment; The World Since 1945.

Library of Congress - Digital collections A rapidly growing collection of documents, photographs, sound recordings, motion pictures and maps. Some of the collections now available are: Pioneering Women; African American Perspectives; California Gold; Civil War Photographs; America in the Great Depression; and many others in the Library of Congress.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) The National Archives web site includes descriptions of NARA facilities; copies of publications such as finding aids; and some Federal records regulations. The agency is working to improve access to the contents of the archives and this site should become increasingly valuable.  Here is a direct link to the advanced search page of the  online catalog for the National Archives which now (2016)  describes 95% of their holdings at the series level.

National Security Archive  An independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University, the Archive collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The Archive also serves as a repository of government records on a wide range of topics pertaining to the national security, foreign, intelligence, and economic policies of the United States.

Umbra Search Umbra Search makes African American history more broadly accessible through a freely available widget and search tool, umbrasearch.org brings together hundreds of thousands digitized materials from over 1,000 libraries and archives across the country.

North American histories (chronologically)

AMDOCS Documents for the Study of American History  One of several sites listed here that provides full text of documents from the 15th Century on, arranged in chronological order.

American Journeys  American Journeys contains more than 18,000 pages of eyewitness accounts of North American exploration, from the sagas of Vikings in Canada in AD1000 to the diaries of mountain men in the Rockies 800 years later.

Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930: Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930, is a web-based collection of historical materials from Harvard's libraries, archives, and museums that documents voluntary immigration to the United States from the signing of the Constitution to the onset of the Great Depression.   Concentrating heavily on the 19th century, this website includes over 400,000 pages from more than 2,200 books, pamphlets, and serials, over 9,600 pages from manuscript and archival collections, and more than 7,800 photographs.

Founders Online  The National Archives  has entered into a cooperative agreement with The University of Virginia Press to make freely available online the historical documents of the Founders of the United States of America.  Through this website, you will be able to read and search through thousands of records from George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison and see firsthand the growth of democracy and the birth of the Republic.

The Modernist Journals Project  The MJP is a multi-faceted project that aims to be a major resource for the study of modernism and its rise in the English-speaking world, with periodical literature as its central concern. The historical scope of the project has a chronological range of 1890 to 1922 (though the earliest journals that currently appear on the site date from 1896 and 1904), and a geographical range that extends to wherever English language periodicals were published.

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1861 - 1993  The Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity.

World War I Document Archive: This archive of primary documents from World War I has been assembled by volunteers of the World War I Military History List (WWI-L). The archive is international in focus and intends to present in one location primary documents concerning the Great War. Also worth looking at is: World War I: Trenches on the Web.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library Digital Archives: A growing body of presidential and personal papers related to the FDR presidency. Included are the President's Secretary File(PSF); British & German Diplomatic files; US-Vatican Diplomatic files, Fireside chats; and the Hackett Papers.

The United States Holocaust History Project: The Holocaust History Project is a free archive of documents, photographs, recordings, and essays regarding the Holocaust, including direct refutation of Holocaust-denial. 

African Activist Archive The African Activist Archive is preserving and making available online the records of activism in the United States to support the struggles of African peoples against colonialism, apartheid, and social injustice from the 1950s through the 1990s. 

The Freedom Archives The Freedom Archives contains over 12,000 hours of audio and video recordings which date from the late-1960s to the mid-90s and chronicle the progressive history of the Bay Area, the United States, and international movements. 

Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact - provides documentation about the development of NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War. This site and the Cold War International History Project provide materials documenting the activities of the US' partners and adversaries during the long cold war struggle.

World histories

African Newspapers Union List (AFRINUL) A centralized electronic database of holdings information for newspapers (all formats and all languages) published in sub-Saharan Africa. AFRINUL consolidated holdings information for collections in North America.

The Afriterra Project The Afriterra Library seeks to preserve, and apply the cartographic record of Africa, enabling broader interpretation and transformative education. The collection holds more than 5,000 rare historical maps focused on Africa. The content spans over 500 years, covering all regions and scales, in 8 different languages, by 3000 unique creators.

 Avalon Project at the Yale Law School (3,000 BCE+)  Selected digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government.

David Rumsey Map Collection  This premier online map collection hosts over 60,000 historical maps and images.  The collection focuses on rare 16th through 20th Century maps of the world with the primary focus on maps of North and South America.

Digital Innovation South Africa DISA is a freely accessible online scholarly resource focusing on the socio-political history of South Africa, particularly the struggle for freedom during the period  from 1950 to the first democratic elections in 1994, providing a wealth of material on this fascinating period of the country’s history. 

DigitalNZ DigitalNZ brings together over 30 million digital items from over 200 different organisations all around Aotearoa. We aggregate New Zealand-related material so that it can be easily searched on one wesbsite. Our content partners include libraries, museums, galleries, government departments, media organisations, community groups, and many others.

Eurodocs: Primary Historical Documents from Western Europe This site (Harold Lee Library, Brigham Young University) has pointers to documents and full text works for Medieval and Renaissance Europe, Europe as a region, and over twenty countries.The time frame is Medieval to the present. The section for Germany includes a broad range of documents, from the 95 theses of Martin Luther to the 1990 treaty on German unification and some contemporary reports on racism.

Europeana Europeana works with thousands of European archives, libraries and museums to share cultural heritage for enjoyment, education and research. This website gives you access to millions of books, music, artworks and more – with sophisticated search and filter tools to help you find what you’re looking for.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook Presents a diversity of texts available on the Internet in the area of modern European history and modern Western Civilization. Designed to serve the interests of teachers and students in college survey courses in subjects such as: the Reformation; Ancien Regime; Industrial Revolution; American and French Revolutions; Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment; The World Since 1945.

Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service The Kenya National Archives was established in 1965 and it holds 40,000 volumes of public records and archives. Its mission is to offer consultative records management services to the public service; acquire and preserve valuable public as well as private records as part of the national documentary heritage; and ensure timely accessibility of records and archives to users.

Library and Archives Canada Library and Archives Canada (LAC) combines the holdings, services and staff of both the former National Library of Canada and the National Archives of Canada.

LLILAS Benson Digital Collections The Benson Latin American Collection and LLILAS host or have been partners in a broad array of digital projects and initiatives, including archives and special collections. 

Niupepa Māori Newspapers A collection of historic newspapers published primarily for a Māori audience between 1842 and 1932. The newspapers can be searched (full text), browsed (by series) or accessed by date. 

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg Historical Papers Historical Papers (Library, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg) and the South African History Archive (SAHA) undertook a joint digital archive initiative, sponsored by the Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation, and have developed a non-commercial digital and electronic archive of material from assorted media relating to the work of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

West African Arabic Manuscript Database (WAAMD) WAAMD is a bi-lingual database that was developed at the University of Illinois in the late 1980s to describe a collection of Arabic manuscripts in southern Mauritania (Boutilimit). It subsequently has been used to compile a union catalog of other West African collections, including manuscript libraries in West Africa, Europe and the United States.

The World Digital Library (WDL)  The World Digital Library (WDL) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world. This open source website provides instant access to scholarly resources, and allows visitors to browse through a trove of artifacts spanning the history of civilization. The site brings together historical manuscripts along with secondary literature describing them.

World History Commons World History Commons is a free, digital resource with high quality, peer-reviewed content in world and global history for teachers, scholars, and students.

Zona Latina Latin American newspapers from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Last Updated: Aug 31, 2022 12:29 PM