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History Resources

Welcome to the library support pages for History. Please contact me if you need any help.

Primary Source

A primary source is a piece of information about a historical event or period in which the creator of the source was an actual participant in or a contemporary of a historical moment. The purpose of primary sources is to capture the words, the thoughts and the intentions of the past. Primary sources help you to interpret what happened and why it happened.

Examples of primary sources include: documents, artifacts, historic sites, songs, or other written and tangible items created during the historical period you are studying.

Secondary Sources

A secondary source is a source that was not created first-hand by someone who participated in the historical era. Secondary sources are usually created by historians, but based on the historian’s reading of primary sources. Secondary sources are usually written decades, if not centuries, after the event occurred by people who did not live through or participate in the event or issue. The purpose of a secondary source is to help build the story of your research from multiple perspectives and to give your research historical context.

An example of a secondary source is Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson, published in 1988. Secondary sources are a great starting point in helping you see the big picture. Understanding the context of your topic will help you make sense of the primary sources that you find.

The primary and secondary sources McPherson used are listed in the bibliography. Another researcher might consult these same primary sources and reach a different conclusion.

Common History Paper Citations (using Chicago style)

Chapter or other part of a book

Footnote:
5. Andrew Wiese, “‘The House I Live In’: Race, Class, and African American Suburban Dreams in the Postwar United States,” in The New Suburban History, ed. Kevin M. Kruse and Thomas J. Sugrue (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 101–2.
 
Bibliography entry:
Wiese, Andrew. “‘The House I Live In’: Race, Class, and African American Suburban Dreams in the Postwar United States.” In The New Suburban History, edited by Kevin M. Kruse and Thomas J. Sugrue, 99–119. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Chapter of an edited volume originally published elsewhere (as in primary sources)

Footnote:
8. Quintus Tullius Cicero. “Handbook on Canvassing for the Consulship,” in Rome: Late Republic and Principate, ed. Walter Emil Kaegi Jr. and Peter White, vol. 2 of University of Chicago Readings in Western Civilization, ed. John Boyer and Julius Kirshner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 35.
 
Bibliography entry:
Cicero, Quintus Tullius. “Handbook on Canvassing for the Consulship.” In Rome: Late Republic and Principate, edited by Walter Emil Kaegi Jr. and Peter White. Vol. 2 of University of Chicago Readings in Western Civilization, edited by John Boyer and Julius Kirshner, 33–46. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. Originally published in Evelyn S. Shuckburgh, trans., The Letters of Cicero, vol. 1 (London: George Bell & Sons, 1908).

Preface, foreword, introduction, or similar part of a book

Footnote:
17. James Rieger, introduction to Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), xx–xxi.
 
Bibliography entry:
Rieger, James. Introduction to Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, xi–xxxvii. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.
 
Source: The Chicago Manual of Style