Primary Sources

Working with primary sources can be an enriching and fascinating research experience, and we've got many different kinds of primary source materials available here in the University Library, both in print and online.

Your first stop for primary source research, especially regional research, is Special Collections. Special Collections include manuscripts, photographs, letters, collected papers, documents, media, journals and ledgers, original art, and a lot more. Many of these materials have been digitized; in order to work with materials in print, you'll need to make an appointment. Contact Special Collections for more information.

In addition to the rare and unique materials in Special Collections, we subscribe to many digitized collections of primary source materials.

  • 17th & 18th Century Burney Collection

    Documenting 200 years of cultural, political, social and historical events, this collection of English news media, including newspapers, newsbooks, proclamations and pamphlets, provides insight into England’s development as a world power.

  • America's Historical Newspapers

    Allows users to search more than 1,000 U.S. historical newspapers published between 1690 and 1922, including titles from all 50 states.

  • American Civil War: Letters and Diaries

    Diaries, letters and memoirs provide firsthand descriptions of all aspects of the Civil War between 1855 and 1875, including events leading up to the war, the war itself, and events immediately following it.

  • American Memory (Library of Congress)

    A digital library of primary sources that includes written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience.

  • American Periodicals Series

    Over 1,100 periodicals that first began publishing between 1740 and 1900, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children's and women's magazines, and many other historically-significant periodicals.

  • American State Papers, 1789-1838

    Primary source material on many aspects of early American history from 1789 to 1838, including approximately 6280 numbered publications, largely Congressional but also containing Executive Department materials (e.g., Foreign Relations, Indian Affairs, Public Lands, etc.)

  • Black Thought and Culture

    The non-fiction writings of over 1100 prominent Black teachers, artists, politicians, religious leaders, athletes, entertainers and other leaders provide insight into issues as diverse as colonialism, socialism, segregation, poverty, black nationalism, religion, the urban ghetto, and the South.

  • British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries

    Large collection of British and Irish women's diaries and correspondence. Spanning more than 300 years, it provides first person accounts of about 500 women from all age groups, ethnicities, and many geographical regions. The materials may be browsed by author, source, year, place, historical events and personal events.

  • California's Historical Newspapers

    Full text historical newspapers from California, from 1850s to 1922.

  • California Digital Newspaper Collection

    The California Digital Newspaper Collection contains over 1,500,000 pages of significant historical California newspapers published from 1846-present, including the first California newspaper, the Californian, and the first daily California newspaper, the Daily Alta California.

  • CQ Historic Document Series

    Starting in 1972, these documents range from presidential speeches, international agreements, and Supreme Court decisions to U.S. governmental reports, scientific findings, and cultural discussions.

  • Digital Public Library of America
    Connects people to the riches held within America’s libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions. All of these materials—photographs, books, maps, news footage, oral histories, personal letters, museum objects, artwork, government documents, and so much more—are free and immediately available in digital format. The cultural institutions participating in DPLA represent the richness and diversity of America itself, from the smallest local history museum to our nation’s largest cultural institutions.

  • Digital Sanborn Maps, 1867-1970. California

    Fire insurance maps of California produced by the Sanborn Map Company from the mid-1880s to around 1970. Digital collection is searchable by city and date.

  • Early American Imprints, Series I

    Also known as the Evans Collection , this database includes full-text reproductions of books, pamphlets, and broadsides published in the United States and American colonies from 1639 to 1800. based on the American Bibliography by Charles Evans, as well as Roger Bristol's Supplement to Evans' American Bibliography.

  • Early American Imprints, Series II

    Also known as the Shaw-Shoemaker Collection (1801-1819), this digital edition provides online full-text access to the 36,000 American books, pamphlets and broadsides published in the first nineteen years of the nineteenth century.

  • EEBO (Early English Books Online)

    Contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700.

  • European Views of the Americas: 1493 to 1750

    A comprehensive guide to printed records about the Americas written in Europe before 1750.

  • Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1993)
  • Historical Newspapers: San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922)

    Provides searchable access to articles as well as birth and death announcements, advertisements, editorials, cartoons, reviews, and more. Explore a N. California perspective on westward expansion, Chinese immigration, machine politics, 1906 earthquake, urban planning, war, public policy, and more.

  • Historical Newspapers: The New York Times with Index (1851-2013)

    Full-text and full-image articles from the New York Times dating back to the first issue in 1851.

  • History Vault: The Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century I & II

    Archival files and primary source documents from key African American organizations and events in 20th Century American history.

  • Making of America

    A digital library 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, and science.

  • North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries and Oral Histories

    Includes 2,162 authors and approximately 100,000 pages of information, so providing a unique and personal view of what it meant to immigrate to America and Canada between 1800 and 1950.

  • North American Women's Letters and Diaries

    Digitized letters and diaries authored by women in the United States (and, to a lesser extent, Canada and Mexico) from colonial times to 1950. The collection sheds light on the role and status of women, attitudes to specific historical and personal events, and the general life and times of various historical periods.

  • OAC (Online Archive of California)

    Provides free public access to detailed descriptions of primary resource collections maintained by more than 200 contributing institutions including libraries, special collections, archives, historical societies, and museums throughout California and collections maintained by the 10 University of California (UC) campuses. Possible PRIMARY SOURCES.

  • Oral Histories Online

    In-depth indexing to more than 2,700 collections of Oral History in English from around the world.

  • Readers’ Guide Retrospective, 1890-1982

    Comprehensive indexing of the most popular general-interest periodicals published in the United States, reflecting the history of 20th century America. Covers 1890-1982.

  • Social and Cultural History: Letters and Diaries Online

    Primary source including North American Women's Letters and Diaries, British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries, North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories, The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries, Black Thought and Culture, Manuscript Women's Letters and Diaries, from 1675 to the present.

  • The Times (London) Digital Archive

    Search for news, business, sports, historical events and cultural events from London, 1785-2009, in one of the most highly regarded resources for the 19th – 20th Century history.

  • U.S. Congressional Serials Set, 1817-1980

    Reports, documents, and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, originally published in approximately 13,800 bound volumes for the period 1817-1980.

  • Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600 to 2000

    Organized around the history of women in social movements in the U.S. between 1600 and 2000, this collection includes 123 document projects and archives with 5,100 documents and more than 170,000 pages of additional full-text documents, written by 2,700 primary authors. It also includes book, film, and website reviews, notes from the archives, and teaching tools.