Primary vs. Secondary Source

The Nation in the 20th Century
World History Institute
•Improve teacher content knowledge
•Increase primary source usage and analysis in
world history classrooms
•Support teachers to increase implementation of
document-based writing
•Collaborate to improve writing instruction
•Evidence-based curriculum reform
Primary or Secondary Source
adapted from History Project at
UC Davis
According to the Library of Congress,
primary sources are the raw materials
of history — documents and objects
which were created at the time under
study. They are different from secondary sources - accounts or interpretations of events created by someone
without firsthand experience.
Video Clip
 Primary vs. Secondary
Some additional thoughts
 Primary sources are materials produced by
people or groups directly involved in the
event or topic under consideration. Think
of them as first-hand information.
Examples of primary sources include
eyewitness accounts, speeches, letters and
diaries, newspapers and magazines, tax
and census data, marriage, birth and death
records, works of art, and interviews.
Secondary sources
 Secondary sources construct an
explanation of the past based on
primary sources and usually in
consultation with other secondary
The best secondary sources will both
report on events in the past as well as
generalize, analyze, interpret and/or
TITLE: Epistola . . . de Insulis Indie nuper inventis
(Letter Concerning the Islands Recently Discovered…)
“There I found very many islands, filled with
innumerable people, and I have taken
possession of them all for their Highnesses, done
by proclamation and with the royal standard
unfurled, and no opposition was offered to me.”
CREATED/PUBLISHED by Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) in Rome, 1493.
Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress
Available at:
TITLE: Columbus taking possession of the new country.
CREATED/PUBLISHED: Boston, U.S.A. : Published by the Prang Educational Co., 1893. 1 print :
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Available at:[email protected]%28cph+3b49587%29%29
On a summer day in 1492, Columbus set sail fro
Spain into the uncharted seas with three small
ships. After more than a month at sea, crew
members sighted land—one of the Bahama
islands in the Caribbean. In honor of Christ,
Columbus named the land San Salvador, which
is Spanish for “holy savior.”…Convinced that he
had reached islands off the coast of India,
Columbus called the natives “Indians.”
--World History: Traditions and New Directions by Peter N.
Stearns, Donald R. Schwartz, and Barry K. Beyer published in
1991 by Addison-Wesley Publishing
 Sources may be both primary and
secondary—depending on your topic
or question.
 Around the room there are 5 stations
with sources from different time
 Your task is to determine if each source
is primary or secondary and why.
 If there are secondary sources, under
what conditions could they be
considered primary?