Archive for Online Primary Sources

Today in History: The Russian Revolution Begins

The Russian Revolution celebrates its centennial today. Here are some online primary sources that can help you:

Eyewitness accounts: visitors to Soviet Russia, 1917-1928 from the larger the Russian Revolution and Britain, 1917-1928 (from the University of Warwick);

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1918. Russia; FRUS, 1919. Russia; Subsequent volumes of FRUS (US Department of State). Consult this informative article on the lack of American material on events in Russia during this time: No Little Historic Value: The Records of Department of State Posts in Revolutionary Russia (Prologue, 40(#1, Spring 2008).

Lenin’s Collected Works (including letters; English translation. Available through Marxist Internet Archives.)

The October Revolution (from the Marxist Internet Archives. Includes timeline, primary sources, biographies, and a glossary

Russian Revolution, 1917-1922 (Thousands of newspaper articles from Chronicling America)

Photograohs can also be used as primary sources as long as they, too, are subject to the strict review of historical vetting. Blood Stained Russia (1918) by Donald C Thompson, despite its lurid title, supplied numerous dated photographs grouped around certain themes. Read his Donald Thompson in Russia (1918), a series of letters home to his wife, Dot. Just reading his introduction to this work can leave you breathless, even if some of it is an exaggeration.



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Today in History – The Beginning of the Protestant Reformation

Whether Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral or simply delivered them to his archbishop is a matter of conjecture, but what is indisputable is that his public condemnation of numerous, Papal transgressions, spawned a movement of rebellion whose legacies still reverberate to this day. While not the first wave of protests (hence “protestant”) against the Catholic Church (look at the Waldensian movement and a little later the Hussite movement), this particular iteration proved long-lasting, thanks in no small part to the burgeoning role of the printing press that had been introduced in the West in 1451.

This post will not present a recapitulation of this era. Please come here to read about the best books on the Reformation. (Roland Bainton’s work still stands the test of time, and Parker’s work on Calvin removes much of the heated and opinionated rhetoric associated with this towering intellect.) For an online examination of those turbulent times, please read this entry from Spartacus Educational – Protestant Reformation. Another site worth visiting, and containing audio/video files as well, is this one from Deutsche Welle.

The standard edition of the collected works of Martin Luther, short-handed as WA (Weimerer Ausgabe), took over forty years to compile, are in 121 volumes, and in German; there is an multi-volume selected edition of his works in English. Online works by Luther can be found at: Christian Classics Ethereal Library (hundreds of authors) and Project Wittenberg (along with other contemporary authors). To get an insight into this person, recommended readings include:His Table Talk (conversations with Luther) and Luther’s Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters.

John Calvin’s challenging works were published in 59 volumes as Ioannis Calvini opera quae supersunt omni; English versions can be found in the CCEL where the commentaries alone comprise 46 volumes. A contemporary document on the man can be found in Memoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin; compiled from the narrative of Theodore Beza…

Other Reformation authors can be found here and here.

Post-Reformation Digital Library is an amazing site holding hundreds, if not thousands of digital copies of primary writings.

From the Reformation to the Thirty Years’ War contains valuable primary sources.
















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Some of the Remaining JFK Assassination Records Have Been Released

The National Archives released another large batch of records that deal with the investigations into the death of President Kennedy. While all the remaining records were assumed to be made public, many were held back due to “national security” concerns. Here is The New York Times take on this development. From the Kennedy Presidential Library, here is an overview of his assassination; Spartacus Educational provides a link-laden review of that event.

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Today in History : Sputnik Launches the Space Age

Sixty years ago today, Sputnik 1 blasted into space. Here is how The New York Times reported it. Review these documents in the Sputnik and the Space Race site from the Eisenhower Presidential Library from American reaction. Also check out this section from the 1955-57 volumes of the FRUSUnited States interest in the scientific exploration of outer space.

To see early documents for the American space program, please peruse

Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program: Volume 1. (The seven other volumes in this NASA history series are also available here.)



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Online Primary Sources: “British Documents on the End of Empire”

This massive project was undertaken in light of the following:

“The main purpose of the British Documents on the End of Empire Project (BDEEP) is to publish documents from British official archives on the ending of colonial and associated rule and on the context in which this took place. In 1945, aside from the countries of present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma, Britain had over fifty formal dependencies; by the end of 1965 the total had been almost halved and by 1985 only a handful remained.”

Documents were culled from a vast array of official sources and provide insights into the transfer of power and the establishment of relations with former colonies.

The project was divided into three series: Series A approached this re-alignment thematically; Series B concentrates on specific countries; and Series C acts as an updated guide to the official records housed in various agencies. All the volumes contain hundreds of documents; at times, the tomes take some time to download. But it is worth the wait. In total, eighteen volumes were published between 1992 and 2006.


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Online Primary Sources for American History: The Papers of General John J Pershing

The Library of Congress has made available online selected material from its collection of Pershing Papers. These include typewritten diaries covering his WWI experiences and well as his post-war activities as Army chief of staff. You might also want to read his Report of General John J. Pershing, U.S.A., Commander-in-Chief, American Expeditionary Forces. Cabled to the Secretary of War, November 20, 1918. Cor. January 16, 1919.

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A Very Early Anti-Slavery Newspaper

It was called The Emancipator and lasted all of seven issues in 1820 due to the death of its editor, a Quaker named Elihu Embree. Please visit this blog entry for additional antislavery publications of an historical nature.

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