Skip to Main Content

Primary & Secondary Sources

This guide will help you learn the difference between primary and secondary sources in various subject areas and provides resources for locating primary sources, both in the library and on the open web.

Library Databases

These databases require a Fresno State email and password to log in:

Early American Newspapers, Series I, 1690-1876 Early American Newspapers, Series 1, 1690-1876 offers 350,000 fully searchable issues from over 710 historical American newspapers. Focuses largely on the 18th and early 19th centuries.
American Periodicals Series Search a selection of 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 History in Video Includes approximately 1,000 hours of newsreels from the late 1890s to the 1980s. Beginning with the Spanish American War, the early films provide documentary footage of actual people, places, and events together with interviews and other broadcast content from the period.

United States History Sources

100 Milestone Documents Compiled by the National Archives and Records Administration, and drawn primarily from its nationwide holdings. The documents chronicle United States history from 1776 to 1965.

American Memory American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience.

Civil Rights - Primary Source Set (from the Library of Congress American Memory Project) 

Jim Crow in America - Primary Source Set (Library of Congress American Memory Project) 

The NAACP: A Century in the Fight for Freedom - Primary Source Set (Library of Congress American Memory Project) 

Making of America A digital library of primary sources in 19th-century American social history from the antebellum period through Reconstruction.

The National Archives: Research by Topic Contains primary sources available online through The National Archives organized by topic.

State Digital Resources (Library of Congress) Links to archives and other digital resources by state.

Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) A research program of the University of California, Berkeley, working within The Bancroft Library. ROHO conducts, teaches, analyzes, and archives oral and video history documents in a broad variety of subject areas critical to the history of California and the United States.

U.S. Historical Documents Guide to working with U.S. Historical Documents at the Fresno State Library

Footnote Access to over 70 million documents through partnerships with The National Archives, the Library of Congress, and other institutions. Features interactive historical timelines, facts, and thematic collections. Limited access but can sign up for free 7 day trial for full access.

Documenting the American South A digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture. Currently DocSouth includes fourteen thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs.

A Chronology of United States Historical Documents A comprehensive site which gives pointers to important United States historical documents that can be found on the Internet.

New Deal Network  An educational guide to the Great Depression of the 1930s

American Rhetoric Database of and index to 5,000+ full text, audio and video versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews and other recorded media events.

Scripps Library & Multimedia Archive Focused on American politics and history with special attention paid to the American presidency. The Library makes available a breadth of research material on the American presidency, both in print and digital form.The core of the Library's print collection is made up of standard works on the American Presidency. Collection includes complete collections of presidential papers; memoirs of presidential administrations; biographies and secondary scholarship on the presidency; and standard reference sources.

Perseus Digital Library's 19th Century American Documents Collection

Iraq War Collection from the Internet Archive A compilation of videos from Internet Archive users about the Iraq War and the issues and events surrounding it.

Automobile in American Life & Society "The automobile’s impact on American life is everywhere, for the car is much more than a means of traveling from one place to another. This web site explores some of that vast impact. It is designed primarily with college students and faculty in mind, but students and educators at other levels, as well as the general public, will find it of interest.

Americas Archive The Americas collection strives to represent the full range and complexity of the Americas history by bringing together key documents that examines political and cultural relationships from a hemispheric perspective. Its goal is to represent the full range and complexity of a multilingual “Americas” that includes Canada, the Caribbean, and Latin America from the beginning of colonization to the present.

Documenting the American South: Oral Histories of the American South The site, sponsored and maintained by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, is rich not only with digitized materials relating to North Carolina history, but also with primary materials regarding many topics of southern history in general.

Home Economics Archive, Hearth Project (Cornell University, Mann Library) A core electronic collection of books and journals in Home Economics and related disciplines. Titles published between 1850 and 1950 were selected and ranked by teams of scholars for their great historical importance

The Titanic (Research Guide from Southeastern Oklahoma State University) A collection of links and images covering every aspect of the sinking of the Titanic disaster. 

AMDOCS: Documents for the Study of American History The site, maintained by the University of Kansas, has links to many important historical documents from 1400 to the present.

The American Civil War Homepage Includes links to Civil War documents and photographs.

Declassifed Documents Refrence System: The United States This is a digital archive of declassified U.S. government documents that date from the end of World War II through the 1970's. It contains searchable transcripts of the text of doucuments as well as digital facsimiles of documents.

Historical Census Browser Census data pertaining to the population and economy of the U.S. states and counties from 1790 to 1960.

Lincoln/Net Includes Abraham Lincoln's speeches and writings from his Illinois years (1830-1861) as well as other materials from Illinois' early years of statehood (1818-1829). This site is the product of the Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project based on North Illinois University.

The Making of Modern Law: Legal Treaties 1800-1926 Includes over 21,000 works on British Commonwealth and American law. There are 14,900 titles from the nineteenth century and 7,100 titles from 1900-1926.

The Colonial North American Project at Harvard University When complete, the project will make available to the world digitized images of all known archival and manuscript materials in the Harvard Library that relate to 17th and 18th century North America. Scattered through twelve repositories, these documents reveal a great deal about topics such as social life, education, trade, finance, politics, revolution, war, women, Native American life, slavery, science, medicine, and religion.