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.

Sources (National Library of Ireland)
Indexes manuscripts held at the National Library of Ireland and Irish manuscripts held elsewhere as well as the contents of over 150 Irish periodicals.

Selected Digital Archives

CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts
Features texts of a broad range of contemporary and historical Irish documents. Texts are accompanied by introductions, background information, graphics, translations where possible, and scholarly bibliographies.

Dublin Castle Records, 1798-1926 (Gale)
Presents records of the British administration in Ireland prior to 1922. Most of these papers relate directly or indirectly to the methods adopted by the authorities, using civil and military forces, to combat the efforts of the Nationalist organizations to secure Irish independence. Sourced from the originals at The National Archives in Kew.

Early English Books Online (ProQuest)  Tutorial
Provides access to print publications from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473 to 1700. Includes books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and newspapers. For searchable text of selected titles see Early English Books Online -Text Creation Partnership.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online: Parts I&II (Gale)
Offers full text access to nearly every English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom, alongside thousands of works published in the Americas, between 1701 and 1800. Consists of books, pamphlets, broadsides, and ephemera.

Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers on Ireland (Documenting Ireland)
Primary sources relating to all aspects of Irish affairs during the period of the Union, including bills, reports, commissions of inquiry, and census reports.

Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs (ProQuest)
Features digital copies of books, pamphlets and periodicals related to women's history in general and the movement for women's rights in particular. Coverage is international and extends from the middle of the 15th century to the middle of the 20th century.

Historical Irish Corpus : Corpas Stairiúil na Gaeilge, 1600-1926 (Royal Irish Academy)
Presents a searchable corpus of Irish language texts featuring over 19 million Irish words from over 3000 printed texts.

History of Ireland: Primary Documents (Euro Docs)
Offers a wide selection of primary Irish texts from the 12th century to the present.

Irish Emigration Database (Documenting Ireland)
Features emigration-related primary sources, principally letters to and from emigrants, compiled by the Centre for Migration Studies, Omagh.

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.

National Archives of Ireland
Features research guides, selected digitized primary sources, and detailed records of its holdings in its catalog.

Sabin Americana, 1500-1926 (Gale)
Offers digital access to books, pamphlets, serials, and other sources published worldwide from 1500 to the early 20th century and documenting the history of the Americas.

Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music
Features traditional tunes and songs collected by master fiddle player Séamus Connolly. Includes transcripts and introductory essays. Created in partnership with Boston College Libraries and published under a Creative Commons license.

Voices of Migration and Return (Documenting Ireland)
Presents over 90 life-narrative interviews conducted with returned and non-returned migrants from Ulster gathered during the course of two studies on contemporary migration (2004-2008). The study participants represent a range of geographic origins within Ulster, class backgrounds and religious denominations.

U.K. Parliamentary Papers (ProQuest)
Features U.K. parliamentary papers including public petitions, bills and acts, Command Papers, House of Lord Papers, Hansard, journals, and debates. Includes documents from the late 17th century to the end of the 20th century.

Selected Collections & Exhibits (Falvey Library)

Chaos in the Streets: The Philadelphia Riots of 1844 (Falvey Distinctive Collections Digital Exhibit)
Presents selected primary sources related to the 1844 riots aimed at Catholic and Irish immigrants.

Jack Butler Yeats: Drawings & Illustrations (Falvey Distinctive Collections Digital Exhibit)
Features drawings and illustrations of Jack B. Yeats found in Falvey's Distinctive Collections.

Joseph McGarrity: Man of Action, Man of Letters (Falvey Distinctive Collections Digital Exhibit)
Explores the lesser-known side of the influential Philadelphia-based Irish republican leader Joseph McGarrity as a man of letters.

Rambles, Sketches, Tours: Travellers & Tourism in Ireland (Falvey Distinctive Collections Digital Exhibit)
Highlights Irish travel narratives and related materials, primarily from Falvey's Joseph McGarrity Collection.

Torn Between Brothers: A Look at the Internal Division that Weakened the Fenian Brotherhood (Falvey Distinctive Collections Digital Exhibit)
Based on the papers of Fenian Senator Frank Gallagher of Buffalo, New York.

To Strike for Freedom! The 1916 Easter Rising (Falvey Distinctive Collections Digital Exhibit)
Features materials from the Joseph McGarrity Collection that highlight the American connections to Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising in commemoration of its 100-year anniversary.

The McGarrity Collection (Falvey Distinctive Collections)
Contains a collection of Ireland-focused monographs and Irish and Irish American magazines and newspapers. This collection was donated to Villanova University in 1940 by Joseph McGarrity. Items, published before 1940, have since been added.