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English Language and Literature

Examples of Primary Sources

...of primary sources:

  • diaries and journals
  • novels, poetry and plays
  • letters and memos
  • speeches
  • autobiographies and memoirs
  • organization records
  • government records
  • audio and video recordings
  • oral histories (any format)
  • photographs and slides
  • artifacts (e.g. painting, furniture)
  • research data

To help demystify the difference between primary, secondary and tertiary sources,
watch this 2:24  minute video from Suffolk County Community College.

Primary Sources - English Literature


Adam Matthew Publications offer an array of specialized online databases with rich primary source information.  For example, database titles include: Eighteenth Century Journals, Empire Online, London Low Life, Medieval Travel Writing, Perdita Manuscripts (16C and 17C women's writing), and Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice. 

Early English Books Online (EEBO) 1473 -1700. "Early English Books Online (EEBO) contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700"

Eighteenth Century Collections Online  1701 - 1800. A comprehensive digital edition of The Eighteenth Century microfilm set, which has aimed to include every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom, along with thousands of important works from the Americas, between 1701 and 1800. Consists of books, pamphlets, broadsides, ephemera.

Nineteeth Century Collections Online  c.a. 1789 - 1914. A multi-year global digitization and publishing program focusing on primary source collections of the long nineteeth century; will be comprised of numerous collections to be released over many years, including a variety of material types (monographs, newspapers, pamphlets, manuscripts, ephemera, maps, statistics, etc.).

Indexes to Poems ( Hyperlinked indexes and anthology search - search chronologically, by author, by title or by first line.

Alexander Street offers databases rich in historical primary sources, as well as videos.

The Diary of Samuel Pepys Multi-volume 17th century diary in text form from Project Gutenberg.

Works by John Evelyn Multi-volume 17th century diary and other workd in text form from Project Gutenberg.

For help in finding History primary sources that may be of use to English research, click here.

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