Archive for Online Primary Sources

Online Primary Sources for American History: Trails West

Across the Plains, Mountains and Desert is a bibliography of almost 4500 items of primary and secondary sources dealing with the overland trails from 1812 to 1912. (Where available, links are provided to the full text document.) As is stated in the preface “This bibliography does not discriminate against fur traders, Frenchmen,soldiers, expressmen, merchants, miners bound for Pikes Peak or Montana, or Mormons bound for Utah. If a man, woman, or child left an account of their experiences crossing the northern overland route across the Great Plains, whether going of east or west, I hope it appears here.” (8) Other more specialized sites include Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, Travels in America, 1750 to 1920, Mountain Men and the Fur TradeThe Gold Rush of California: A Bibliography of Periodical Articles, “California As I Saw It”: First-Person Narratives of Early California, 1849-1900, Oregon Trail Emigrant Resources, and the Merrill J Mattes Collection (trail diaries).

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Christmas with the Founding Fathers

The Founders Online site currently contains over 181,000 transcribed documents written to and by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. A simple search allows you to locate those works that mention Christmas; another search filter allows you to limit your searches to those missives dated December 25 of a particular year. Such an example is this letter written by George Washington to Robert Morris on December 25, 1776, the night he successfully attacked the Hessian garrison at Trenton.

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American Newspapers Report the Armistice

Come here to see dozens of front pages of American newspapers recording this momentous event. Many papers announced the armistice on November 12; here is a section from the Chronicling America site detailing a fuller description of the  newspaper coverage (some of it premature) of the armistice.

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Photos/Newsreels of World War I

As newer technologies are introduced, so too does the expansive documentation of history continue. Photography was by no means a recent invention in the early twentieth century, but its extensive use allows us a century later to view the resulting devastation of The Great War. There are numerous pictorial assemblages available for viewing. Among the most interesting are those from the Library of Congress’ Panoramic Photographs Collection containing many scenes from French battlefields as well as stateside military camps, including Camp Merritt located in Bergen County, N.J. (A memorial now marks this camp.)

Moving pictures were in their infancy during World War 1, but enough films were preserved and digitized to allow them to act as witnesses as well. This film – Scenes in the Meuse-Argonne Section, September 26 to November 11, 1918 – is one of a series that the U.S. National Archives has produced. In addition, the National Archives also acts as the repository for numerous newsreels from commercial vendors; take a look at the hundreds of newsreels from Fox-Movietone. And don’t forget the treasure trove from British Pathe – WWI- The Definitive Collection, and the European Film Gateway provides portals into little-known collections of great import.

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Just in Time for Halloween – “The World Bewitch’d”

This online exhibition from Cornell University examines the belief in witches that spread throughout Europe culminating in the killings of thousands of putative witches during the 16th and 17th centuries. Drawing on the largest collection of witchcraft works extant – Cornell University Library Witchcraft Collection – (of which 104 English-language works are online), pages from selected works are presented highlighting both the reception of witches and measures taken to suppress them.

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Online Primary Sources for American History: INF Treaty

President Trump has announced that the United States is going to withdraw from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty or INF. This agreement eliminated all missiles that had a range of between 300 miles and 3,000 miles, effectively stripping the European Theater of Operations from the threat of missile attack, whether of a conventional or nuclear nature.

There have been some reports that Russia was not abiding by the letter of the law; see Russian Compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: Background and Issues for Congress from CRS for an overview. Also, this proposed legislation – S.430 – Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty Preservation Act of 2017.

Although of recent historical vintage, there are indeed valuable primary sources of information for those wishing to visit this topic.

Firstly,  read the treaty in its entirety along with its informative narrative.

Secondly, examine the hundreds of documents that have been selected to explain the diplomatic process. These are found in the valuable Foreign Relations of the United States series, especially Soviet Union, October 1986-January 1989, Volume VI , and read the preface to this volume that points to additional relevant volumes in this ongoing documentary project.

Thirdly, consult the National Security Archive for its “briefing book” – The INF Treaty and the Washington Summit: 20 Years Later that contains additional sources, including some from the Soviet side. This wonderful site also has numerous entries on the predecessor negotiations as well.

Fourthly, drop by the Wilson Center’s digital collections that were culled from disparate entities that have an impact on the present topic.

Fifthly, visit Georgetown University’s digital video collection containing then-contemporary interviews of some of the major players/analysts of the time from both the academic and governmental perspectives.

Sixthly, peruse statements, addresses, interviews of President Ronald Reagan (who was a key participant in this treaty) housed at the American Presidency Project.

And lastly (because I can’t bear the thought of writing “seventhly”), watch the various Congressional hearings on the INF courtesy of C-SPAN.

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Online Primary Sources for American History: Supreme Court Nomination Hearings

This Senate Committee on the Judiciary page has complete transcripts of all the hearings back to 1971 with the notable exception of Robert Bork, who, while nominated, was rejected by the committee; his hearings are here. And while official transcripts are not yet available for the Brett Kavanaugh hearings (that could take a couple of years), here are videos of the proceedings.

Numerous blog entries with multitudinous links can be perused for additional information.

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