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History-MA in American History and Government (MAHG): Primary Sources

This guide is intended to support students in the MAHG program.

Hathi Trust


 Four years of fighting : a volume of personal observation with the army and navy, from the first battle of Bull Run to the fall of Richmond.     By Charles Carleton Coffin, 1823-1896

Hathi Trust is a partnership of major research institutions and libraries working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future.  The HathiTrust Digital Library brings together the immense collections of partner institutions in digital form, preserving them securely to be accessed and used today, and in future generations.

Records are available thought the OhioLINK catalog. with direct links to the publications. Use a keyword search in the OhioLINK catalog for Hathi and your your search term (civil war AND hathi).   Or, you may go directly to the Hathi Trust website to search by keyword or within the full text.

Black Freedom Struggle in the United States: Challenges and Triumphs in the Pursuit of Equality

ProQuest invites you to explore the new Black Freedom Struggle website, featuring expertly selected open primary source documents. Visitors will find historical newspaper articles, pamphlets, diaries, correspondence and more from specific time periods in U.S. history marked by the opposition African Americans have faced on the road to freedom.

The content is curated around six time periods: 

  1. Resistance to Slavery and the Abolitionist Movement (1790-1860)
  2. The Civil War and the Reconstruction Era (1861-1877)
  3. Jim Crow Era from 1878 to the Great Depression (1878-1932)
  4. The New Deal and World War II (1933-1945)
  5. The Civil Rights and Black Power Movements (1946-1975)
  6. The Contemporary Era (1976-2000)

Making of America Journals

Making of America (MOA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history primarily from the antebellum period through reconstruction. Includes: 

American Jewess 1895-1899 (hosted on behalf of the Jewish Women's Archive)

Appleton's 1869-1881 (2 series)

Catholic World 1865-1901

DeBow's 1846-1869 + 1952 index (3 series)

Garden and Forest 1888-1897 (hosted on behalf of the Library of Congress)

Journal of the United States Association of Charcoal Iron Workers 1880-1891

Ladies Repository 1841-1876 (3 series)

The Old Guard 1864

Overland Monthly 1868-1900 (2 series)

Princeton Review 1831-1882 (3 series)

Southern Literary Messenger 1835-1864 + 1936 Contributor index

Southern Quarterly Review 1842-1857 (3 series)

 Vanity Fair 1860-1862


THOMAS was launched in January of 1995, at the inception of the 104th Congress. The leadership of the 104th Congress directed the Library of Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public. Since that time THOMAS has expanded the scope of its offerings to include the features and content listed below.


About Primary Sources

 What are Primary Sources (primary documents)?


Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons. These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research.


Source: American Library Association

Finding Books with Primary Documents

Published collections generally use the word "sources" and “history” as part of the Library of Congress Subject Heading(s) assigned to the record :

Examples of Subject Headings for selected books of history:

      France--History--Philip III, 1270-1285--Sources


      United States--History--19th century--Sources

      United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Sources

Search Tips

  • You can search a catalog using either a Subject Search  or a Keyword Search.
  • Library material is organized by Subject Headings, but they use very precise controlled vocabulary and it is challenging to know exactly which Subject Headings are used.  Keywords use natural language and allow one to tailor a search using operators such as AND or OR to narrow or broaden a search.
  • If you are uncertain of the exact Subject Heading, try a Keyword search.
  • Notice that the words History and Sources are used in each of the above Subject Headings for a variety of primary documents.  That indicates if we use the word Sources in a keyword search, we will most likely find primary documents/sources.
  • Type your keyword and link it together with AND plus the word "sources." ( Churchill AND sources)

AU Primary Document Databases

 You will be asked to log in before using the database.

Primary Documents on Web

Primary sources for the Americas. There are additional resources under the tab for Web Sites.

Finding Archival Collections

Ohio Primary Documents on Web

World Primary Documents

In the First Person

Index to personal narratives, including letters, diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and oral histories. Includes first-person narratives from hundreds of published volumes, both those that are publicly available online and those that are held by repositories/archives around the world. Covers approximately 20,500 months of diary entries, 63,000 letter entries, and 17,000 oral history entries. Allows for keyword searching of more than 700,000 pages of full text. Also contains pointers to 4,300 audio and video files.

Dates covered: 1500s-2000s