POLECON 150: World of Commodities

Primary Sources Introduction

Primary sources were either created during the time period being studied or were created at a later date by a participant in the events being studied (as in the case of memoirs).  They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer.  Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period

secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon.  It is generally at least one step removed from the event is often based on primary sources.  Examples include:  scholarly or popular books and articles, reference books, and textbooks.

The library has many databases and digital collections devoted to primary resouces, especially those relating to United States and British history. For a comprehensive listing please see Primary Source Databases (all) including newspaper databases.

Another good strategy is to search in Oskicat by subject and pair an appropriate subject heading with additional subject terms that identify materials as primary sources. Some of these terms include:

  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • early works to 1800
  • interviews
  • pamphlets
  • periodicals
  • personal narratives
  • sources

The library has created an entire research guide on finding historical primary sources and also has a listing of library archival collections.  

Commodities Primary Sources

Global Commodities: Trade, Exploration and Cultural ExchangeProvides original sources materials to help explore the history of fifteen major commodities and to examine the ways that these have changed the world. The commodities include: chocolate, coffee, cotton, fur, opium, oil, porcelain, silver and gold, spices, sugar, tea, timber, wheat, and wine and spirits.

Archive of Americana. Primary source collections providing references to books, pamphlets, broadsides (Early American Imprints, Series I and Series II), newspapers (Early American Newspapers) and government publications (American State Papers andU.S. Congressional Serial Set).

Confidential Print: Africa, 1834-1966From coastal trading in the early nineteenth century, through the Conference of Berlin of 1884 and the subsequent Scramble for Africa, to the abuses of the Congo Free State, fights against tropical disease, Italy's defeat by the Abyssinians, World War II, apartheid in South Africa and colonial moves towards independence, the documents in this resource cover the whole of the modern period of European colonization of the continent.

Confidential Print: Latin America, 1833-1969Covers the South and Central America, plus the non-British islands of the Caribbean, from just after the final Spanish withdrawal from mainland America in the 1820s to the Cold War in the 1960s. Covering revolutions, territorial changes and political movements, foreign financial interests, industrial and infrastructural development (including the building of the Panama Canal), wars, slavery, immigration from Europe and relations with indigenous peoples, amongst other topics. 

Confidential Print: Middle East. Covers such events as the Egyptian reforms of Muhammad Ali Pasha in the nineteenth century, the Middle East Conference of 1921, the Mandates for Palestine and Mesopotamia and the Suez Crisis in 1956, to the partition of Palestine, post-Suez Western foreign policy and the Arab-Israeli conflict. This collection originated out of a need to preserve the most important papers generated by the Foreign and Colonial Offices. These documents range from single-page letters or telegrams to comprehensive dispatches, investigative reports and texts of treaties.  

Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO)Contains over 180,000 items published in Great Britain and its colonies, including those in North America, during the 18th Century.  Rich source of information about the American and French Revolutions and all aspects of 18th Century life in Britain and its colonies.

Empire OnlineIncludes 70,000 images of original manuscript and printed documents to support study and research in the field of colonial and empire studies. Five sections include: Cultural Contacts, 1492-1969; Empire Writing and the Literature of Empire; The Visible Empire; Religion and Empire; and Race, Class, Imperialism and Colonialism, c. 1607-1969 (coming soon). In addition to original documents, this database contains scholarly essays and analysis.

Foreign Office files for ChinaThe complete British Foreign Office Files dealing with China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in this period from 1919 (the beginning of the Republic of China) to 1949 (when the Chinese Communist Party won power) to 1976 (the year of Mao Zedong's death) to 1990. These resources are from the National Archives, Kew, the UK government's official archive.

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers. Provides full-text access to thousands of 18th, 19th and 20th Century Parliamentary Papers. Includes all the "sessional papers" of the British Parliament: bills, reports of committees, papers presented by Royal Commissions and government departments, treaties and international agreements, command papers, and statistics.

ProQuest CongressionalOne stop shopping for U.S. congressional publications. Provides index and abstracts of congressional publications back to 1789, including full text of published Congressional Hearings from 1824-present (unpublished until 1979), full text Committee Prints from 1830-present, full text Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports from 1916-present, full text United States Congressional Serial Set (and its various former titles) from 1789-present.

Slavery and Anti-SlaveryIncludes more than 1.5 million pages, 7000+ books, 80+ serials, 15 manuscript collections as well as court records and reference materials documents related to the antebellum era. Published through partnerships with the Amistad Research Center, Oberlin College, Oxford University, & many other institutions. 

Last Update: September 16, 2013 13:50