History 152: Primary Sources

The Fourteenth Amendment and the Meanings of Equality
Professor: Sara Dubow
Spring 2020

What are Primary sources

Primary sources are first-hand accounts by participants of a particular event or materials produced at the same historical time period. Secondary sources are books and articles written by scholars investigating a research topic using primary sources.

If you were examining racism in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica , the article in the encyclopedia on the "Negro" would be a primary source. However, an article in the American Historical Review analyzing racism in the Britannica would be a secondary source . (Richard Marius, A Short Guide to Writing About History , pp. 14-15.)

Some examples of primary sources include:

    • Memoirs, speeches, writings, correspondence
    • Papers of a political party, agency, or association
    • Official documents such as congressional hearings and reports
    • Contemporary magazine and newspaper articles
    • Contemporary art works, films, literature and music
    • Contemporary artifacts, such as buildings and monuments



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