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History - United States

Guide to United States History Resources

Primary Sources

A primary source (also called original source) is an information-bearing document, recording, artifact, or other item that was created or produced during the time under study.  It is an original source and is distinguished from a secondary source, which cite, comment on, interpret, or incorporate primary source material.  Examples of primary sources include original autobiographies, diaries, film footage, speeches, letters, minutes, e-mail, photographs, artwork, relics, jewelry, paintings, etc.

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates 1774-1873 - Beginning with the Continental Congress in 1774, America's national legislative bodies have kept records of their proceedings. The records of the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and the United States Congress comprise a rich documentary history of the nation. These documents can be accessed at this website.

Abraham Lincoln Papers - The complete Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 20,000 documents. The collection is organized into three "General Correspondence" series which include incoming and outgoing correspondence and enclosures, drafts of speeches, and notes and printed material. Most of the 20,000 items are from the 1850s through Lincoln's presidential years.

Accessible Archives - Accessible Archives is a digital collection of American newspapers, magazines, and other primary source materials mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries.  Content includes Civil War era newspapers and memoirs, African American newspapers, the history of women's suffrage, regimental histories, county histories, and more. (Requires UC username and password).

AMDOCS (Documents for the Study of American History) – This website provides access to primary source documents in American history.  Website is organized by centuries.

The American Presidency Project - The Public Papers of the Presidents contain most of the President's public messages, statements, speeches, and news conference remarks. The documents within the Public Papers are arranged in chronological order. The President delivered the remarks or addresses from Washington, D.C., unless otherwise indicated.

ArchiveGrid - ArchiveGrid is an online repository of archival institutions.  It does not provide access to documents; rather, it helps identify institutions (archives, libraries, museums, historical societies) that hold archival material and the nature of the resources they preserve.

Civil War Women - "The story of the war will never be fully or fairly written if the achievements of women in it are untold."

Digital History - Digital History is a website that provides high-quality historical resources for teachers and students for free and without advertising. Resources are made available through partnerships with a number of archives and museums that share the same vision.

Harper's Weekly Reports, 1857-1874 - For over a quarter of a century Harper’s Weekly captured the lion’s share of the national newspaper audience. Materials from the magazine are presented in order to give a true historical picture of the leading 19th-century newspaper’s view of black Americans.

Historical Newspapers - A gateway to many state historical newspaper websites.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania - The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, founded in 1824, is one of the nation's largest archives of historical documents, including 21 million manuscripts, books, and graphic images encompassing centuries of US history.

History Guide - Directory of history-related websites.  To search for Primary Source collections: 1) Type in general terms related to your topic. 2) In the Source Type pull-down menu, select Source Materials.

Our Documents - 100 milestone documents of American History.

Making of America - This site features Cornell University Library's digital collection of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, science, and technology. 

Massachusetts Historical Society - Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society is an invaluable resource for American history, life, and culture. Its extraordinary collections tell the story of America through millions of rare and unique documents, artifacts, and irreplaceable national treasures.

New-York Historical Society - The New York Historical Society offers on-site and online access to a vast collection of art, objects and documents and an ongoing collecting program that aims to facilitate a broad grasp of history's enduring importance.

Papers of George Washington - A site sponsored by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union and the University of Virginia devoted to making George Washington's writings accessible to the general public.

Robert E. Lee Papers - Housed at the Special Collections Department of the James Graham Leybum Library at Washington and Lee University, the Robert E. Lee Papers document aspects of Lee's life and career as a soldier, educator, friend, and father.  This collection consists of personal letters sent from Lee to a host of political and military figures in 19th century America.

World War One Document Archive - An important source of links to primary documents, such as treaties and personal recollections, maintained and provided by Brigham Young University.

The Avalon Project - Made available by the Lillian Goldman Law Library at the Yale Law School, the Avalon Project is a compilation of digitalized documents in law, history, and diplomacy from Ancient to Modern times.

The Online Library of Liberty -- The OLL makes available at no charge to the public outstanding resources for teaching and learning about individual liberty. The OLL contains 1,700 volumes in multiple formats which are organized by subject areas, topics, and debates.

EuroDocs - This website provides links to European primary source historical documents that are transcribed, reproduced in facsimile, or translated.  Documents shed light on key historical events within the respective countries and cover political, economic, social, and cultural history in the broadest sense from Ancient to Modern time.  Documents are arranged in chronological order wherever possible.

The Valley of the Shadow -- The Valley of the Shadow depicts two communities, one Northern and one Southern, through the experience of the American Civil War. The project focuses on Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and it presents a hypermedia archive of thousands of sources that creates a social history of the coming, fighting, and aftermath of the Civil War.

The Works of Alexander Hamilton -- The Federal edition of Alexander Hamilton's writings.

The Works of Benjamin Franklin -- All 12 volumes of the Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the private as well as the official and scientific correspondence, together with the unmutilated and correct version of the autobiography, complied and edited by John Bigelow.

The Works of John Adams -- A 10 volume collection of John Adams' most important writings, letters, and state papers, edited by his grandson.

The Works of Thomas Jefferson -- Including The Declaration of Independence, the Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Commentary of Montesquieu's 'Spirit of Laws', Autobiography, Notes on Virginia, Correspondence and Papers, and more. 

The Writings of James Madison -- A 9 volume collection of James Madison's writings.