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History: Primary Sources

Additional Guides

Primary Sources by Type

The Library has over 1400 digital resources, organized in the A-Z Databases list by type and subject. The links below will bring you to those collections designated as most useful for research in history, but be aware these lists are not comprehensive.

Archival Collections and Primary Source Databases
These collections are often organized by theme or historical period and may include multiple types of primary source documents. There is some overlap between the resources listed here and those in the following lists.

Atlases, Maps and Gazetteers
The most extensive collection of maps owned by the Library are housed in the Earth Sciences & Maps Library, located in 50 McCone Hall.

Books & Text Collections
The collections listed here are primarily in English. To locate early books in other languages, check the A-Z databases listings by subject for the specific language (ex: Spanish & Portuguese).

Government Information Sources - California/Regional
Some state and local government documents are located in the Gardner Stacks, but the largest collection can be found in the Institute of Governmental Studies Library located in 109 Moses Hall. The US Government Information librarian has a comprehensive guide to locating California Government information.

Government Information Sources - United States/Federal & Foreign/International
Rather than using the A-Z databases list, I suggest reviewing the extensive guides provided by the Government information specialists. ​

Images (Still)
Use these to find photographs, paintings, posters and printed advertisements.

Moving Images
Use these to find newsreels, television broadcasts, advertisements, and films. The Media Resources Center, located in Doe Library, is the UC Berkeley Library's primary collection of materials in audio and visual formats. 

Use these to find newspaper articles, broadcast transcripts, wire service stories, etc. The International Coalition on Newspapers (iCON) Project, housed at the Center for Research Libraries, provides a database of more than 20,000 newspaper titles from over 150 countries dating back over 350 years. This is a useful source for identifying the titles of newspapers from a region during a given time period. As a member of CRL, UC Berkeley Library can borrow microfilm copies of these newspapers for you through Interlibrary Loan.

Statistics and Numeric Data
Use these to find statistical tables, numeric data, demographic information, public opinion polls, etc. 

Locating Primary Sources using UC Library Search

There are many access points to the vast collections of primary sources available to you.

Certain words and phrases will locate primary sources in library catalogs. The best results will be retrieved by searching for these as keywords in the subject field, most easily done in the Advanced Search of UC Library Search:

-personal narratives
-early works to 1800
-pictorial works
-caricatures and cartoons
-songs and music

For specific search strategies, see the Library's guide to Finding Historical Primary Sources.

Your searches will be more successful if, in your preliminary research, you identify specific:

  • names of relevant individuals and organizations
  • dates of events
  • places
  • what terminology was used at the time by participants and observers? (ex: negro or colored instead of african american)