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British History Research Guide: Find Primary Sources

Using QuickSearch to find primary sources

For more general information on using QuickSearch, see the Home and the Find Books tab.

Terms to search for:
There are a number of subject terms used in library catalogs, which, when they appear at the end of a subject heading, tell you that a title you've found is a primary source. The most important and widely used is sources. For example: england history civil war, 1642-1649 sources.

Here's a reasonably complete list of these special subject terms:
sources OR archives OR diaries OR correspondence OR speeches OR interviews OR personal narratives OR oral history OR newspapers OR pictorial (make sure to use OR in caps)

- Go into Advanced Search in QuickSearch. Search sources OR any of the other terms that might be relevant to your research in the first search box, and select Subject and contains in the drop-down menus to the right. This should limit the results of your search just to primary sources.
- In the second box, search for history contained in the subject field and any other subjects you know that relate to your topic.
- You may want to add a search line, then add some keywords to your search; a keyword search searches all fields, so don't select a field in that drop-down menu.

Some additional search tips:
- QuickSearch searches across all the Resources Types. If your search results has many sources that are not primary sources, use the Resource Type limit on the left to limit just to books or to other types that seem relevant. Alternatively, when you construct your initial advanced search, you can limit to Books as your Resource Type on the right.
- Any search result in QuickSearch is, by default, sorted, arranged by Relevance. Under Filter My Results on the left, you can Sort by and choose Date-Oldest to get reverse chronological order. Alternatively, in Advanced Search, you can limit by date of publication on the right.

Primary Sources in WorldCat

You can use WorldCat, a worldwide library catalog, to search for primary sources beyond Rutgers. Equivalent search strategies to those described above can be used in Advanced Search in WorldCat. An additional, very useful feature here is the option to limit to "Archival Material" under "Limit Type to." This will limit your search to unique primary sources, to material found in libraries' archives.

For more on WorldCat, see Other Library Catalogs under the Find Books tab.

Major Microfilm Sets

Microfilm is an older, preservation format. Primary sources are miniaturized on what looks like old camera film. You need to use a microfilm machine to magnify the text and create copies. Machines and most of these sets are located in the Microforms Room in the basement of Alexander Library. Ask at the Help Desk for help in locating the sets, using the machines and printing or making PDF copies.

Church Missionary Society, Section V: Missions to the Americas
Alexander Microfilm 2841; 20 reels
Guide: Alexander Reference BV2500.A2C48

Campaign for Women's Suffrage, 1895-1920: Papers of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, The National Union of Woman's Suffrage Societies, The Parliamentary Committee for Woman's Suffrage, and the Manchester Men's League for Woman's Suffrage
Douglass Microfilm 25; 31 reels
Guide: Douglass Reference JN976.C36 1990

Chronicles and Documents of Medieval England: c. 1150-c. 1500 from Cambridge University Library
Alexander Microfilm 2810; 39 reels
Guide: Alexander Reference DA170.C47

Church Authority and Power in Medieval and Early Modern Britain: The Episcopal Registers, 1215-1650
Alexander Microfilm 2893; 111 reels
Guide: Alexander Reference CD1068.A2C498

Colonial Discourses, Series One: Women, Travel, & Empire, 1660-1914
Douglass Microfilm 72; 76 reels
Guide: Douglass Reference G463.C6925 1998

The Complete State Papers Domestic: Series One, 1547-1625
Alexander Microfilm 2198; 227 reels

The Complete State Papers Domestic: Series Two, 1625-1702
Alexander Microfilm 2329; 298 reels

Diaries of Constance Maynard
Douglass Microfilm 74; 14 reels
Guide: Douglass Reference LA2375.G72M39 1987
Maynard was a leading feminist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and a pioneer in education for women.

Methodist Missionary Society Archives
Alexander Microfiche 524; 24,281 microfiche
Guide: Alexander Reference BV2550.A427W4 1981

Property and Privilege in Medieval and Early Modern England and Wales: Cartularies and other Registers
Alexander Microfilm 2838; 70 reels
Guide: Alexander Reference Z2029.P76 1990

Sex and Gender: Manuscript Sources from the Public Record Office
Douglass Microfilm 79; 57 reels
Guide: Douglass Reference HQ1587.S489

Social and Political Status of Women in Britain
Alexander Microfilm 2628; 125 reels
Guide: Alexander Reference HQ1593.S63
Political, popular, and professional periodicals for and by women; nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Star Chamber and English Society in the Reign of James I: Selected from PRO Class STAC 8
Alexander Microfilm 2766; 28 reels
Guide: Alexander Reference KD8253.G74 1980

Unpublished State Papers of the English Civil War and Interregnum
Alexander Microfilm 2246; 114 reels
Guide: Alexander Reference DA400.U55

Women Advising Women
Douglass Microfilm 80; 91 reels
Guide: Douglass Reference PN5124.W6W6
Magazines, advice manuals, etc. from seventeenth through the nineteenth century.

Library Databases for Primary Sources

Unless noted, all of the following are fulltext databases. Some of them default to searching in fulltext. Unless you're looking for something very specific, searching in fulltext can sometimes produce an overwhelming and not very useful search result. If this happens, try limiting by date, using additional keywords, or searching just in the records, rather than in fulltext. For additional search tips, see the Find Articles tab.

17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers: Newspapers and "newsbooks," pamphlets, broadsides, etc. from the English Civil War and the following century.

ARTstor: Art and architecture images from all periods and regions.

British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries: Approximately 500 diaries and collections fof letters, circa 1500-1950.

British Periodicals: Roughly five hundred magazines and journals, from the seventeenth through the early twentieth century, mostly the nineteenth century.

C19: The Nineteenth Century Index: Variety of sources, including the Nineteenth-Century Short Title Catalog and an index to Parliamentary Papers.

Defining Gender, 1450-1910: Collection of primary documents on: Conduct and Politeness; Domesticity and the Family; Consumption & Leisure; Education & Sensibility; and The Body.

Early English Books Online (EEBO): Books, periodicals, tracts, etc. printed in English before 1700; records in the Rutgers Libraries catalog link to fulltext in the database..

Eighteenth Century Collections Online: All books printed in English, 1701-1800; records in the Rutgers Libraries catalog with link to fulltext in the database.

Electronic Enlightenment: Over 58,000 letters written by British, American, French, German, and other Enlightenment figures.

Empire Online: Primary sources related to modern imperialism, including the British Empire.

Gerritsen Collection (1543-1945): History of feminism, 1543-1945; over 4,000 fulltext monographs and 300 periodicals; mostly English, German and French.

Global Commodities: Documents the global history of fifteen commodities, including cotton, coffee, oil, and opium.

HathiTrust Digital Library: Bigger than Google Books, better search options. Login as a RU user in the upper right to take advantage of all features, including creating personal, shareable collections.

HeinOnline: Mostly American, but includes English Reports, Full Reprint, 1220-1865 (court opinions) and Statutes of the Realm, through 1714.

India, Raj, and Empire: Primary and secondary sources from the foundation of the East India Company in 1615 to the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947.

JSTOR: Extensive collection of scholarly journals across the disciplines, back to the first issue.For most titles, does not include current issues.

Literature Online (LION): Major literary works in English from all periods.

Making of the Modern Law: Legal Treatises, 1800-1926: British and American.

New York Times: 1851 to three years prior to the current year.

Nineteenth Century Collections Online- Eight topical "archives," including British Politics and Society.

Oral History Online: English-speaking men and women, all walks of life, mid-nineteenth century to the present.

PAIS Archive: Public policy articles and essays from 1915 to 1976; no fulltext; click GetR to search for fulltext.
Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, 1275-1504: Surviving records of the sessions of Parliament.

Periodical Index Online: Mostly humanities, social science journals; mostly in English; beginning in 1635, but mostly from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; little fulltext, click Get@R to search for fulltext.

Raj and Empire: Primary sources relating the the British Empire in South Asia from 1615 to the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947

Slavery, Abolition, & Social Justice, 1490-2007: Primary documents on the history of slavery worldwide, with maps, thematic essays, etc.

Times Digital Archive: London Times from the first issue in 1785. As of 2018, coverage through 2012, but more content will be added periodically.

Travel Writing, Spectacle, and World History: Women's Travel Writing and Correspondence- Also includes maps, photographs, ephemera; early nineteenth to late twentieth centuries.

Washington Post: 1877-1993

Women and Social Movements International (1840-present): Letters, diaries, memoirs of activists; publications of women's organizations, etc.

Women in the National Archives: Primary documents on women's suffrage in Britain and the colonies; plus a finding aid to women’s studies resources in the National Archives




British History Librarian - New Brunswick

Tom Glynn's picture
Tom Glynn
Alexander Library
Rutgers University
169 College Ave.
New Brunswick, NJ
(848) 932-6105

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