Student Essay: Primary Source Analysis
by Susan McGowan
What Is A Primary Source?
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, tax records
- A published account
- An account that was published as well as newspapers, books, periodicals, almanacs, cookbooks, broadsides, travel books, childrens literature, novels, poetry, pamphlets, sermons, advertisements
- An image
- Paintings, drawings, photographs, lithographs, woodcuts, maps, video, film
- An artifact
- Buildings, machines, objects, clothing, weapons, etc.
- 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" to history.
***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.
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