Washington and Lee University

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primary sources


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.  Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in digital format, or in published format. The University Library has primary sources on many subjects.  Many titles include, but are not limited, to primary source material.

You may browse titles at Primary Sources --General and at Primary Sources -- U.S. History, or use the Material Type categories below.


Finding Primary Sources by material type

Personal Writings and Oral Histories


Government Documents




Visual Materials, including Maps

Sound Recordings