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RESOURCE: "Free" Primary and Secondary Sources ... where do you find yours?

Amateur Historians

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Edited: Mar 5, 2008, 4:33pm Top

I thought it might be nice to list FREE sources of primary and
secondary materials as a service to LTers.
{And yeah, because I love free history}

Here are some to start:



The grandfather of Free sites. A variety of primary and secondary
sources are available. Most as text files.



This is "American Journeys" as sponsored by World.cat. At this
site you will find a limited supply of journals, letters, and maps
in the pdf format that relate to the discovery of North America,
beginning with "The Saga of Eric the Red" and presently ending
with "Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio".




Archive.org has movies, sound, and text. It's my personal
favorite because text materials are available in a number of
formats including .pdf (which retains the color drawings, etc.)


I am going to post this on the American History thread as well.
Hopefully we'll get some cool ideas.

Mar 6, 2008, 2:02pm Top

The best free sources I have used will tell you a lot about the research I was doing at the time.

The County Courthouse - items vary but could include anything the government was ever interested in.

The local Public Library - microfilms of census records and newspapers and possibly anything else.

The local LDS Family History Center - some of the nicest people I have met and if you don't bring up religion they wont either.

The local Genealogical Society or Historical Society - be careful here you could end up listening to hours of fascinating stories not at all related to what you are enquiring about.

I am looking into a 1930's bank robbery that my Grandfather was reported to be involved in (not, as far as I know as the thief) and my brother-in-law who recently retired from another bank checked out the bank and told me to call them and just ask if there was an old timer that might remember. I have not had the free time try his suggestion but spring break is coming up.

As always smile and use Sir and Mam properly and you will find people to be extremely helpful. I once had a Brown County Ohio clerk volenteer to go across the street to the basement where records from the 1810's were stored and try to find a probate record for me on her lunch hour. She found it.

Edited: Mar 7, 2008, 7:23am Top

Interesting and fun sounding research, TL.

{btw, I've also found that courtesy does wonders. I guess because it's so rarely used these days.}

Mar 7, 2008, 8:15am Top

Since 1993 I have worked directly with customers in the auto repair industry. You can imagine the variety of personalities I have had to deal with over the years. I understand that not having the use of your car or having to pay an unexpected bill can be a big problem for some people. I try to treat everyone fairly but I seldom bend over backwards for someone that tries to make it MY problem.

Needless to say I try to be at my best when I am someones customer and I pass the advice on whenever I can. If you want the best service be nice.

It works the other way to. I had a disagreement about a warranty issue on a laptop computer a few years ago where they eventually saw things my way.

May 11, 2008, 7:14pm Top


Ran across this site and haven't really had time to fully investigate. But they do have over 1 million documents and books for free download.

Jul 26, 2008, 1:37pm Top

Try this one: http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/History/

It has a.o. Kenneth M. Settons complete History of the Crusades

Dec 22, 2008, 5:06am Top

A Dutch archivist's top ten of best online archives in the Netherlands, Europe, en outside Europe in 2008:

Edited: Dec 25, 2008, 1:36pm Top

Here's my free sources list - mainly for Medieval and Ancient History.

First, if you have a decent Public Library, Interlibrary Loan (ILL). For my library I don't even get charged shipping.

Second, if there's one nearby, a University Library. Unless you're a student or faculty/staff member you won't be able to check books out but they have copy machines and reference librarians.

Online: Internet Archive's already been mentioned - I LOVE that site. Also Gutenberg

http://www.ouls.ox.ac.uk/eresources - Oxford University Library with a link to their digitized collection

http://www.the-orb.net/ - The Online Reference Book (ORB) for Medieval Studies

http://www.historicalresources.myzen.co.uk/ - Dave Postles' site with links to (mostly English) medieval manuscripts, records, etc.

http://eprints.ouls.ox.ac.uk/ - Oxford e-prints

http://ora.ouls.ox.ac.uk/ - Oxford University Research Archive - You gotta love Oxford!

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/ - British History on-line - lots of great digitized stuff

http://www.leeds.ac.uk/history/weblearning/MedievalHistoryTextCentre/medievalTex... - University of Leeds site with a bunch of translated texts

http://medievalsourcesbibliography.org/ - What they've done is try to develop a bibliography of online medieval sources - you use the search feature for what you're looking for and it directs you

Oops - hit submit by mistake

http://www.ccel.org/ - Christian Classics Ethereal Library. They have a bunch of translated historical religious works - you have to pay to download but you can read online. They also have an e-mail newsletter which will let you know when they add something.

http://www.tertullian.org/ - Roger Pearse has done a monumental job of getting folks to help translate ancient works into English and then post the translations online - not just Tertullian but many other authors.

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/Sbook.html - The Medieval Sourcebook - one of my favorites

http://gnosis.org/welcome.html - The Gnosis Archive - has quite a few translations of Gnostic materials and links. I haven't had much luck with the search feature though

http://www.romanlegaltradition.org/ - Link to an online, peer-reviewed journal, "The Roman Legal Tradition"

http://www.deremilitari.org/ - De Re Militari is an organization devoted to Medieval Military studies. It is NOT a re-enactment group but an academic one. Includes the Journal of Medieval Military History.

That's all I have in English though good, reliable sites are appearing all the time - used to be ORB and the Sourcebook were about it - I have others with untranslated texts and there's a LOT of Medieval info out there in French.

Jan 13, 2009, 7:58am Top

Great additions. Thanks.

Mar 8, 2009, 11:52pm Top

Thanks Pam for starting this thread -- I'm not able to get that Worldcat link to work; is there an error?

Mar 31, 2009, 7:32am Top

Oops. Guess I haven't been around here much, Stellar. If I don't respond you should come knockin' and 'get on my case'.


Group: Amateur Historians

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