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World War I Primary Sources


For those (like you!) who study history, primary resources can be invaluable. They provide context and background, and they can tell the story of an event or time period from the viewpoint of someone who was a witness. Knowing where to look and how to search for primary resources can be a challenge, which is why we have created this guide. We will begin by defining primary resource and by giving you examples. From there, you can navigate this guide using the tabs on the left to learn about tools and resources that may help in your information hunt.


What are primary resources?

Information comes in many formats and in many source types. You are probably quite accustomed to using secondary and reference resources to write papers. They are excellent when you need to back up a claim or provide more information about a topic. Primary resources are a bit special because they are the originals...the resources often inform the secondary and reference sources. 

Primary resources

  • are firsthand accounts of a topic or event
  • have the character of origin or "firstness"
  • are not limited by publication

Examples of primary resources

Primary resources can come in many different formats, such as 

  • Diaries and journals
  • Cartoons and propaganda
  • Art
  • Sheet music
  • Letters 
  • Clothing and personal items
  • Speeches
  • Oral histories
  • Photographs or moving images like film
  • Organizational records