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Early Caribbean History

Early Caribbean History Research Guide

This research guide is a tool to help you identify and locate primary and secondary sources for your research relating to the early history of the  Caribbean. If you have any questions about your research, my contact information is on the left. Feel free to email me to set up time to meet and discuss your questions further.

Tiny URL:

A chart of the West Indies, from the latest marine journals and surveys, 1814. Philadelphia PA, M. Carey. 

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are the evidence of history, original records or objects created by participants or observers at the time historical events occurred or even well after events, as in memoirs and oral histories. Examples of primary sources may include but are not limited to:

Examples: letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, maps, speeches, interviews, documents produced by government agencies, photographs, audio or video recordings, born-digital items (e.g. emails), research data, and objects or artifacts (such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons). These sources serve as the raw materials historians use to interpret and analyze the past.


Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in their original format (possibly handwritten manuscript form), in microfilm/microfiche (mini reproduction of a document), in print or digital format. At Rutgers, most of it is held in Special Collections and University Archives (SC/UA) at Alexander Library. Not all of their items are in the library catalog.

What Are Secondary Sources?

Secondary Sources are one step removed from primary sources, though they often quote or otherwise analyze or use primary sources. They can cover the same topic, but add a layer of interpretation and analysis. Secondary sources can include:

  • Most books about a topic.
  • Analysis or interpretation of primary documents and historic events 
  • Scholarly articles or books about a topic, especially by people not directly involved (usually peer reviewed)
  • Documentaries ( they often include photos or video portions that can be considered primary sources).


Related Research Guides

Below are links to other Rutgers Library research guides that may relate to your course or areas of research interest. These guides are open for you to explore! 


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