Skip to main content

History: Primary Sources

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are documents (manuscript or printed) from particular historical periods, as opposed to "secondary sources"  (e.g. books and articles) written at a later date about particular historical periods.  

Evaluating the quality of primary source websites

Primary Sources in Special Collections

Hartley Library Special Collections

With 6.5 million manuscript items and 50,000 printed books, the Special Collections provide a resource of remarkable richness and depth.

In the Archives you can find the papers of

  • the first Duke of Wellington MS 61
  • the third Viscount Palmerston MS 62
  • Earl Mountbatten of Burma MS 62

Southampton is also home to one of the largest Jewish archives in Western Europe and the archives of the University itself MS 1.

Printed collections include:

 To find out how to access the material see Special Collections

History Sources in Hartley

History Sources (Hist Sources) is a reference only collection of printed primary sources in the Special Collections area of the Hartley Library, located on Level 4.

Your search results you will give the location Hist Sources

To find a volume in History Sources is fairly easy.

Always make a note of the call number AND the volume number within the series; it is the volume number which makes it easy to locate. 

Many of the volumes in History Sources include the complete text of a document, others are guides to finding primary sources (e.g. what other institutions hold). Some are "calendars" which are chronological lists of documents held at other libraries or archives (e.g. the National Archives).

Primary Sources online

This listing includes all the primary source databases for History which we subscribe to. Freely available primary source databases are generally too numerous to list, but a few that are particularly useful are included.

Gale Primary Sources

Gale Primary Sources is an integrated research experience from Gale which brings together the following collections: 

  • 17th & 18th Burney Collection
  • 19th Century UK Periodicals
  • Archives Unbound
  • British Library Newspapers
  • Economist Historical Archive 1843-2015
  • The Financial Times Historical Archive, 1888-2010
  • Illustrated London News Historical Archive 1842-2003
  • Independent Digital Archive 1986-2016
  • Sunday times Digital Archive 1822-2006
  • Times Digital Archive 1785-2011
  • Times Literary Supplement Digital Archive 1902-2012

Calendars of State Papers

Many of the Calendars of State Papers are freely available at British History Online www.british-history.ac.uk Other Calendars are available only to members of the University through the Library’s subscription.

State Papers Online

Members of the University can access digitised historical manuscripts, along with accompanying calendars, in the following collections at State Papers Online:

          The Tudors, 1509-1603: State Papers, Domestic

          The Tudors, 1509-1603: State Papers, Foreign, Scotland, Borders, Ireland and Registers of the Privy Council

See Primary Sources Online section opposite for links to the subscription services of British History Online and State Papers Online.