Skip to main content

You can still access the UC Berkeley Library’s services and resources during the closure. Here’s how.

IAS 150: Commodities and Cultures in the Making of the World Economy: Primary Sources

Primary Sources Introduction

Primary sources were either created during the time period being studied or were created at a later date by a participant in the events being studied (as in the case of memoirs).  They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer.  Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period

secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon.  It is generally at least one step removed from the event is often based on primary sources.  Examples include:  scholarly or popular books and articles, reference books, and textbooks.

The library has many databases and digital collections devoted to primary resouces, especially those relating to United States and British history. For a comprehensive listing please see Primary Source Databases (all) including newspaper databases.

Another good strategy is to search in Oskicat by subject and pair an appropriate subject heading with additional subject terms that identify materials as primary sources. Some of these terms include:

  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • early works to 1800
  • interviews
  • pamphlets
  • periodicals
  • personal narratives
  • sources

The library has created an entire research guide on finding historical primary sources and also has a listing of library archival collections.  

Commodities Primary Sources

Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files, 1960-1969, Africa and the Middle EastDeclassified materials from U.S. diplomats in Africa and the Middle East.   

Confidential Print: Africa, 1834-1966. Full-text of reports, dispatches, correspondence, political summaries, economic analyses, and maps from the United Kingdom's Colonial, Dominion and Foreign Offices relating to Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East.

Confidential Print: Latin America, 1833-1969.  Digitized collection of The Confidential Print series, issued by the UK Foreign and Colonial Offices related to South and Central America

Confidential Print: Middle East. Digitized collection of The Confidential Print series, issued by the UK Foreign and Colonial Offices covering the Middle East, c. 1839 to 1969, taking in the countries of the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, Turkey and former Ottoman empire.

East India Company Archives. Digital archive of the India Office Records on the East India Company from its inception until it dissolution. 

Empire Online. Includes 70,000 images of original manuscript and printed documents to support study and research in the field of colonial and empire studies. 

Global Commodities: Trade, Exploration and Cultural Exchange. Provides original sources materials to help explore the history of fifteen major commodities and to examine the ways that these have changed the world. 

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers. Acess to thousands of 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st century Parliamentary Papers of Great Britain.

India, Raj and Empire. Manuscript collections of the National Library of Scotland relating to South Asian history between 1615 and 1947 on India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Slavery Abolition and Social Justice. Provides a portal for slavery and abolition studies, bringing together documents and collections covering an extensive time period, between 1490 and 2007, from libraries and archives across the Atlantic world.

Slavery and Anti-Slavery. Includes more than 1.5 million pages, 7000+ books, 80+ serials, 15 manuscript collections as well as court records and reference materials documents related to the antebellum era. 

World Scholar: Latin America and the Caribbean. A comprehensive range of contemporary and historical documents for the region, providing research across the humanities, both for current and historical Latin America and the Caribbean.