Archive for Online Primary Sources

Additional JFK Assassination Records Released

Ask anyone of a certain age “Where were you when President Kennedy was killed”, and you will get a detailed account of where that person was. The National Archives continues to open files associated with this traumatic event; these contain CIA and FBI records.

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Online Primary Sources: The Verney Family

This long-lived family has its roots in 13th century England and still has an impact on that country today. Its members have included the mayor of London, members of Parliament, a pirate, a Middle East trader, and opposing sides in the English civil war.

Secondary sources on this distinguished family can be found in:

Verney, Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed; History of Parliament (has numerous biographies on the various Verneys who have sat); Memoirs of the Verney Family, Edinburgh Review, 17(July-Oct., 1892): 411-430; Parishes : Middle Claydon’, in A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4, ed. William Page (1927); and a contemporary accounting is available at the August 30, 2001 obituary of Sir Ralph Verney.

Primary sources include:

Verney papers : Notes of proceedings in the long Parliament, temp. Charles I. printed from original pencil memoranda taken in the House by Sir Ralph Verney (1845).

Letters and papers of the Verney family down to the end of the year 1639.(1853).

Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, volume 7, appendix, pp. 433+ (1870).

Memoirs of the Verney family during the seventeenth century / compiled from the papers and illustrated by the portraits at Claydon house. (2d ed, 2 vols, 1907).

Numerous references will be found in British History Online, a remarkable compendium of primary and secondary sources.

BTW, this is the blog’s 2500th entry.


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How Colonists Learned of the Declaration of Independence

In this electronic age we take for granted that news, fake or not, is disseminated in the blink of an eye. But what of previous times when there was no “instant” communication, when news traveled at the pace of a galloping horse or a swiftly moving ship? How did the colonists learn that the Declaration of Independence had been drafted and signed? How was this document published? The following sites will help answer these and other questions:

Which Version is This, and Why Does it Matter? starts with the attention-grabbing statement that “There is no singular authoritative version of the Declaration of Independence”. This piece then goes on to explain the various permutations of this foundational document and how it was promulgated.

Early Printings of the Declaration of Independence lists in chronological order the first broadside and newspaper appearances in the colonies. It also includes the “first notices” or mentions of the document in its various stages of approval. The declaration was first published was by John Dunlap, the printer of the Continental Congress. Here is the first printed version of the Declaration; it was  done as a broadside.

Spreading the Word: The Declaration of Independence Makes the Papers contains a digital version of the first newspaper printing of the Declaration from the July 6, 1776 edition of the Pennsylvania Evening Post. Another copy can be viewed at the Museum of the American revolution.

How The Declaration Was Received In The Old Thirteen from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 85(#506, July 1892): 165-87 presents a narrative that discusses the spread of both the document and its reception; there is a good deal of space dealing with New Jersey. Of interest in this article is the discussion of when the Declaration was read out loud to the public.

The Deleted Passage of the Declaration of Independence (1776) highlights the anti-slavery section authored by Thomas Jefferson that was struck from the Declaration; it movingly begins: “He [King George III] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither



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Explaining Primary Sources

The ability to recognize a primary source and exploit it correctly form the basis for the second draft of Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy from the Association of College and Research Libraries and the Society of American Archivists. This text is aimed at all knowledge workers, whether they are teachers, librarians or archivists; a worthwhile annotated bibliography adds to the usefulness of this document.

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Online Primary Sources for American History: Japanese Internment Camp Newspapers

Japanese-American Internment Camp Newspapers, 1942 to 1946 contains thousands of pages of locally printed newspapers from a variety of internment camps. For example, you can read about the establishment of schools from the June 2, 1942 issue of the Manzanar Free Press or the recruiting efforts for combat volunteers found in various publications. There are multiple ways of searching this unique collection, and it reminds us of what prejudice and fear can do to a country and its peoples.

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Today in History: The United States Enters World War 1

We have extensive entries on this conflict. We would be remiss if we did not include the following sources from the Foreign Relations of the United States series. Between 1928 and 1940, the State Department issued volumes of primary documents totaling thousands of pages; they are supplements for 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918 as well as the Lansing Papers, volume 1 and volume 2. (Robert Lansing was Secretary of State during this time.) A full listing of all relevant volumes from the FRUS is online.


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Online Primary Sources: Renaissance and Reformation

These are limited to English-language sources only:

The adventurous Simplicissimus : being the description of the life of a vagabond named Melchior Sternfels von Fechshaim (published in 1669, it was one of the most widely read novels in Germany during the 17th century. It deals with the Thirty Years’ War)

Catholic Encyclopedia (not a primary source but it does provide context; beware its age and bias; still usable, however)

Christian Classics Ethereal Library (hundreds of authors, thousands of works)

Gleanings of a few scattered ears during the period of the Reformation in England [microform] : and of the times immediately succeeding : A.D. 1533 to A.D. 1588

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Internet Modern History Sourcebook: Reformation Europe

Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Renaissance

A Literary Source-Book of the Renaissance

Luther’s correspondence and other contemporary letters

Memoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin; compiled from the narrative of Theodore Beza, and other authentic documents

Online Primary Sources: German History (coverage starts in 1500)

Online Primary Sources: Modern French History, 1500-1871

The Protestant Reformation (primary sources listed by author)

Readings in European history; a collection of extracts from the sources (especially vol. 2)

Renaissance Sites and Elizabethan Resources (Primary/secondary sources)

Testimony of the Reformers…. (English Reformation)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Translations and reprints from the original sources of European history. Volumes 1-4; volumes 5-6


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