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CHST 222 History of the Caribbean

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

For certain assignments you might be asked to use primary sources. Primary sources are works created at the time of an event, or by a person who directly experienced an event.

It is the content that matters and an on-line source can still be a primary source. For example, an online copy of a newspaper from May 8, 1945, is still a primary source even though the original article has been digitized.

Primary sources can include:

  • Interviews, diaries, letters, journals, speeches, autobiographies, and witness statements
  • Original hand-written manuscripts
  • Government documents and public records
  • Art, photographs, films, maps, fiction, and music
  • Newspaper and magazine clippings
  • Artifacts, buildings, furniture, and clothing

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are works that are written after the original event or experience; they provide criticism or interpretation of the event or experience.

Some examples of secondary sources are:

  • Textbooks
  • Biographies
  • Historical films, music, and art
  • Articles about people and events from the past

Primary vs Secondary Video

Check out University of Victoria’s Library video on Primary vs. Secondary sources. (Closed Captioned)

Digital Collections Purchased or Leased by Ryerson that Include Primary Sources

Some digital collections from Adam Matthew Digital  that may be useful for Caribbean historical studies follow:

Some of the Alexander Street Press collections may also be useful:

Additional Multi-media resources:

A Sampling of Searches to Discover More Primary Sources in the RU Library Catalogue

Caribbean Area History Sources (A Library of Congress subject heading search)

caribbean pictorial works (Keywords search)

caribbean interviews (Keywords search)

jamaica interviews (Keywords search)

caribbean speeches (Keywords search)

slavery caribbean sources (Keywords search)

Further Explorations into Primary Sources

Using Primary Sources on the Web -- a concise guide to finding and evaluating primary sources online written in 2015 by a sub-committee of the Instructional and Research Services Committee of the Reference and User Services History Section in the American Library Association.

More freely accessible resources can be found in the archives and digital collections identified on the Websites page of this guide.

A Sampling of Books that Discuss the Use of Primary and Secondary Sources