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Economic History: Primary Sources

A guide for the study of the economic history of the world.

What are primary sources?

"Primary sources are materials produced by people or groups directly involved in the event or topic under consideration, either as participants or as witnesses. 

Some primary sources are written documents, such as letters, diaries, newspaper and magazine articles, speeches, autobiographies, treatises, census data, and marriage , birth, and death registers.

Some primary resources) are not written, like works of art, films, recordings, and interviews.

From Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007), 6-7.


Primary Sources on the Internet

Using Primary Sources on the Web

An excellent tutorial put together by librarians about finding, using, and evaluating primary sources online.

Links to reputable sources of primary documents on the Web include

Finding Primary Sources in the Library Catalog

The best way to find primary sources in the library catalog is by using Library of Congress Subject Headings, which often include the following words:

  • sources
  • diaries
  • correspondence
  • interviews
  • personal narratives
  • speeches
  • papers of..

However these subject headings are not intuitive, therefore it is best that you do a Keyword search for your topic and one of the words above. Example:

  • Mao speeches

Once you find a title of interest, open the record and link to similar sources by clicking on the appropriate subject heading.

Digital Primary Source Collections (ASU Only)

Access is restricted to ASU students, faculty, and staff.

Primary Sources in Print: Select List