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Crusade & Conquest: Primary Sources

Defining a Primary Source

What is a Primary Source?

"A primary source is a document,
image or artifact ... created
contemporaneously with the
 under discussion."

(Williams, Historian's Toolbox,
2nd ed., p. 56)

Primary sources are evidence from participants in or
 eyewitnesses to an event.


  • Diaries, letters, speeches, memoirs/autobiographies, oral interviews, newspaper & magazine articles...
  • Images: photographs, sound & video recordings, maps...
  • Artifacts: coins, receipts, schedules, tombstones, furniture, jewelry, DNA evidence...
  • Public records: birth, death, probate, census records; court cases, official government documents...
  • Creative works:  paintings, movies, statues...


  • Original manuscripts or records
  • Authoritative transcriptions in printed volumes or digital form
  • Reproductions--digital, microfilm, facsimile...

Primary Sources in Books

Primary Sources from the Internet

National archives, libraries, agencies & many other organizations publish primary source documents, images, sound & video files, etc.: