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Primary Sources: Search primary sources by time period, country, format or theme

Online library support for primary source research

Find primary sources by time period

Click on the relevant tab to find primary sources sorted by time period.

Some databases will be found in more than one tab.

Click here to find archival newspaper sources.

Hover over the info icon to find details of each database

Find primary sources by country

Click on the relevant tab to find primary sources sorted by country.

Some databases will be found in more than one tab.

Click here to find archival newspaper sources.


Find primary sources by format

Click on the relevant tab to find primary sources sorted by type.

Many of the database collections include material in a range of formats. 
Databases have been sorted by the most predominant format in the collection.

Digitised collections of orginal books and manuscripts.

Ephemera is a catch-all term for items that were created for a particular occasion or reason, and expected to have been discarded soon after. Examples of ephemera are movie posters, pamphlets and music hall programmes. These rescued disposable items provide an insight into the culture and interests and concerns of the times in which they were produced, and many have since become collectables.

Archives of film footage, documentaries, radio and television broadcasts can provide a wealth of primary source material.

Collections of images, including photographs, can document socially significant events, personal relationships and the history of an organisation, institution or group.

Interviews capture the lived experiences of people during a particular period in history, or who witnessed an event of historical relevance.

Novels, prose and poetry are primary sources (or primary texts) when research is focused on these sources.

Maps can reveal how places have changed over time, but additionally they can provide insight into the people who created them and the political and social landscape in which they lived.  

Magazines in general offer more in depth articles than in newspapers, and aim to enlighten and entertain.

Pamphlets (small booklet or leaflet about a particular subject) were used extensively to convey political, social and religious messages.


A full list of newspaper archives can be found in the Archival News Sources LibGuide.

Official papers published by UK parliament and other national and regional assemblies can provide insight into political and legislative processes.

Personal writing includes diaries, letters, correspondence, manuscripts and journals.

Grey literature is a term used to describe materials that have not been made available following a usual publication method. Therefore they can be harder to locate.

Grey literature includes information produced by government or non-governmental organisations, private companies, academics and industry.

Types of grey literature may include reports, theses, conference papers, newsletters and working papers .

Including trading accounts, ships records, ledger books, invoices and administrative records

Find primary sources by theme

Click on the relevant tab to find primary sources sorted by theme.

Although the majority of archive collections will cover a range of different topics, resources for a selection of key themes have been collated in the tabs above.

These collections contain primary source materials relating to gender, useful for those studying topics from a gendered perspective.

Collections of works and writings by or about particular individuals.

Historical archives including various sources from a range of time periods, all relating to London.

Primary source materials particularly useful for those studying popular culture including focus on entertainment, leisure, media, fashion and more.

See the Shakespeare libguide for further information and resources.

Historical sources concerning aspects of trade and commerce.

Primary source materials relating to war in different historical periods, including official documents, propaganda and personal accounts.

Primary materials concerning witchcraft, including court records of trials and personal accounts. 


Archives documenting the history of crime, in the form of ephemera, trial proceedings, police documents, photographs and more.