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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

History 591T: Trials in History

What is a primary source?




A primary source is a document, speech, or other sort of evidence written, created or otherwise produced during the time under study.

Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event. Examples include:

Original documents: autobiographies, diaries, e-mail, interviews, letters, minutes, news film footage, official records, photographs, raw research data, speeches.

Creative works: art, drama, films, music, novels, poetry.

Relics or artifacts: buildings, clothing, DNA, furniture, jewelry, pottery

(Thanks to the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries website; used by permission)


Finding primary sources

The following sources are "primary" sources; i.e., contemporary accounts of various trials in newspapers and magazines published during the period.

E-Indexes or full-text newspapers:

Historical New York Times
The entire New York Times, searchable, in image files, from 1851 to three years ago.

Historical Boston Globe
The entire Boston Globe, searchable, in image files, 1872-1922.

Readers' Guide Retrospective
Citations to articles in 600 popular U.S. magazines, 1890-1982.

Wall Street Journal Archive
Searchable full text of the backfile of the financial paper of record, 1889-1990.

Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913
A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.

United Nations Treaty Collection
Contains the texts of over 50,000 bilateral and multilateral treaties and agreement, in their original languages and French and English, 1920’s-present.

Early English Books Online
The 125,000 earliest books published in English, as listed in Short Title Catalogs of Pollard & Redgrave (Ref Z 2002 P77) and Wing (Ref Z 2002 U587), 1475-1700.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online
Every significant book or pamphlet printed in the UK, and English-language titles printing in America, between 1701 and 1800.

19th century magazine index:

Poole's index to periodical literature [1802-1907] REF AI3.P7 1958

Magazines (Floor 8):

Illustrated London News AP4.I4

Punch AP101.P8

Microfilm resources:

The Times (London) Microfilm A9
An index to the film is Palmer's Index to the Times newspaper, AI21 T5.

The Library has a large number of world newspapers on microfilm. To access these, search the library catalog under the following subject heading(s):

Newspaper collection--[country]