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Crummé ENG 218 Summer 2023: Primary Sources

Definition and Examples

Primary sources “are written or created during the studied time period” and shed light on “the topic being discussed in the paper.” Works of literature and art, as well as historical documents, can be used as primary sources. The Library of Congress defines primary sources as "the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts that retell, analyze, or interpret events, usually at a distance of time or place."

Examples of primary source types you might use in this class include (but are not limited to) plays, poems, novels, paintings, memoirs, letters, diaries, government proclamations, medical texts, and sermons.

Reprinted Primary Sources

Primary sources are frequently most accessible in reprinted editions. As long as the source was written at the time period you're writing about, it is perfectly fine to use a modern edition (e.g., the 2016 Arden edition of Hamlet or the 2001 New York Review of Books edition of The Anatomy of Melancholy).

Primary Source Collections

Librarian for English Literature

Historical Dictionaries