Student Essay: What Is A Primary Source?
by Susan McGowan
Think of a primary source as a "rough draft"
of history. It needs to be put in a larger context and not accepted
for itself alone.
A primary source is one that was written at the
time of the period under study. A primary source can be any one
of the following:
- A written account
- Diaries, letters, ledgers, account books,
notes, vital records, bills, wills, inventories, military records,
- A published account
- An account that was published as well as newspapers,
books, periodicals, almanacs, cookbooks, broadsides, travel books,
children's literature, novels, poetry, pamphlets, sermons,
- An image
- Paintings, drawings, photographs, lithographs,
woodcuts, maps, video, film
- An artifact
- Buildings, machines, objects, clothing, weapons,
- The physical environment
- The built environment
- A human being
- Anyone alive or whose voice and thoughts were
captured by an electronic recording may be considered a primary
source for their life experiences. They are "eyewitnesses"
***Remember - Just because something is a primary
source does not mean it is accurate or truthful. A person may be
an eyewitness to an event and still not see it all or understand
what they have witnessed.