What is a primary source?

Primary sources come in a wide variety of formats, but they all have one thing in common: they are original, unfiltered sources that describe people, places and events. While museums, archives, and libraries preserve primary sources in their original form, reproductions may be widely available and accessible in a variety of formats including print books, digital archives, websites, and microfilm.

Primary Sources in the Library's Collection and Elsewhere

Use the Library's catalog and WorldCat to discover primary sources related to your topic. Visit the history subject guide for advice on finding primary sources in the catalog or contact your librarian for assistance. Looking for newspaper and magazine archives? Go to the Newspapers & Magazines section of this guide.

Falvey Library Catalog
The Library's catalog enables patrons to search & browse Falvey Library’s collection of books, journals, audio/video materials, electronic resources and more.

WorldCat (FirstSearch)
Presents a combined catalog of the catalogs of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. WorldCat highlights publications available at Villanova University. Other items can be requested via an inter-library loan request form.

Selected Digital Archives

Arabic Collections Online (NYU Libraries)
Features a rich collection of public domain Arabic language books covering a wide range of subjects from the collections of participating research libraries.

Confidential Print: Middle East, 1839-1969 (Adam Matthew Digital)  Tutorial
Offers digital access to the Confidential Print series issued by the British Government for distribution to members of the Foreign Office, Cabinet, and British diplomatic missions abroad. The series encompasses essential documents issued or received by the British Foreign and Colonial Offices. Files include reports, dispatches, correspondence, political summaries, economic analyses, and descriptions of leading personalities. The collection comprises documents on the countries of the Levant and the Arabian peninsula, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Sudan. It covers watershed moments such as the Middle East Conference of 1921, the mandates for Palestine and Mesopotamia, the partition of Palestine, the Suez Crisis, and the Arab-Israel conflict, all from the perspective of British government officials. Sourced from the originals in the collections of The National Archives in Kew. See Foreign Office Files for the Middle East, 1971-1981 for complementary sources.

East India Company (Adam Matthew Digital)  Tutorial
Features India Office Records held at the British Library in London. These are the archives of the London administration of the East India Company and the pre-1947 government of India. Containing digital copies of royal charters, correspondence, trading journals, proceedings and minutes of councils and boards, and personnel lists, among other document types, this resource charts the history of British trade and rule in the Indian subcontinent and beyond from 1599 to 1947. Companion essays by experts provide historical context. The University has access to two out of three modules: Trade, Governance and Empire, 1600-1946 and Factory Records for South Asia and Southeast Asia, 1595-1830.

Empire Online (Adam Matthew Digital)
Contains documents spanning five centuries, 1492 to 1962, including a variety of manuscripts and printed and visual source materials for the study of 'Empire' and its theories, practices and consequences. Material is accompanied by scholarly essays, chronology links shared with a Global Commodities collection, brief biographies, external links, and interactive maps.

Foreign Office Files for India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, 1947-1980 (Adam Matthew Digital)  Tutorial
Contains British Foreign Office files dealing with India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Digitized documents comprise dispatches, reports, correspondence, political and economic analyses, newspaper cuttings, maps, and photographs. Topics covered include India’s independence and partition, the Nehru era, the Indo-Pakistani war, military rule in Pakistan, the independence of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the Cold War, and the development of nuclear weapons in the region. Sourced from the originals in the collections of The National Archives in Kew.

Foreign Office Files for the Middle East, 1971-1981 (Adam Matthew Digital)  Tutorial
Features British Government documents from the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices, the Prime Minister’s Office and Defence Intelligence files on Middle Eastern countries including Israel, Palestine, the Arabian peninsula, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. Digitized documents comprise dispatches, reports, correspondence, political summaries, economic analyses, newspaper cuttings, maps, and profiles of leading personalities. Topics covered include the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the oil crisis of the early seventies, the Lebanese Civil War, the Camp David Accords, the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Sourced from the originals in the collections of The National Archives in Kew. See Confidential Print: Middle East, 1839-1969 for complementary sources.

India, Raj and Empire (Adam Matthew Digital)
Documents the history of South Asia from the foundation of the East India Company in 1615 to the granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947 with digital copies of papers archived at the National Library of Scotland. Includes diaries and journals, official and private papers, letters, artwork, and Indian sources containing histories and literary works. Thematic areas introduce key documents. Search directories index keywords, names, and places.

Making of the Modern World, Part I, 1450-1850 (Gale)
Provides access to digital copies of books, serials, and various other works of economic literature published between 1450 and 1850. Presents critical primary sources on European economic history including economic theory, imperialism, wealth creation, and trade. Most of the titles are in English but works in other European languages are also included.