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The Hulbert Taft, Jr. Library


Revolutions: Great War / World War I Remote, “Student Choice” Unit: Primary Sources (Documents, Images, Video & More)

Primary Sources

Sources Created by Those Who Lived It

Any document, image, or artifact created at the time of the topic being researched is a primary source. Examples include eyewitness accounts, autobiographies and memoirs, diaries, letters, speeches, reports, newspapers, household and day-to-day objects, clothing, works of art, architecture, and photographs. 

According to scholar Elizabeth Nix , "After initially referring to the “European War,” U.S. newspapers adopted “World War” once America entered the confrontation in 1917. On the other side of the Atlantic, meanwhile, Britons preferred “Great War” until the 1940s—with the notable exception of Winston Churchill, who reminisced about the “World War” in the 1927 volume of his memoir “The World Crisis. (https://www.history.com/news/were-they-always-called-world-war-i-and-world-war-ii)

Please note that primary source documents are a reflection of the time and culture in which they were created and may contain language or images that are considered offensive today.

Find Primary Sources by an Individual Relevant to Your Topic

Using the search box below, find primary sources by a person relevant to your topic:

  • Do an Author search using the name of that person to find books, diaries, letters, memoirs, etc. written by that person. 
  • Do a Keyword search using your person's name to identify writings, interviews, speeches, etc. in anthologies or collections.
  • You can also do an Author search using the name of the U.S. president in office at the time of your topic / event.

Primary Source eBook Only Search

Use this search to find only ebooks containing primary sources
that can be accessed via our library catalog.

Select Primary Source Type:
There are three subject headings that indicate primary sources:
Sources, Personal Narratives, and Diaries.
Each drop down will give different results, so try them all!


Type of search?

If you have any questions, comments, or just need a hand, please email us!

We're here to help!

From the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, the print disabled, and the general public. Our mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge

The Internet Archive currently provides access to 28 million digitized books, 14 million audio recordings, 3.5 million images, 475 billion archived web pages, and more!

 

The following is a selection of the books available on the Great War published between 1914-1917:

 

Aircraft in the Great War by Claude Grahame-White and Harry Harper (1915)

Claude Grahame-White was an English pioneer of aviation, and the first to make a night flight, during the London to Manchester air race in 1910.

 

Punch Cartoons of the Great War (1915)

Punch was a British magazine of humor and satire published from 1841 to 1992 (it was revived and published again from 1996 to 2002). 

 

Tales of the Great War by Henry John Newbolt (1916)

Sir Henry Newbolt, historian, poet, and authority on military matters wrote this book, addressed to a young man, from actual incidents to illustrate the gallantry and victories of the British Army and Navy to generate public support for the war effort. The term subaltern is primarily a British military term for a junior officer.

 

The British Fleet in the Great War by Archibald Hurd (1918)

Hurd was editor of the Naval and Military Record between 1896 and 1899 and wrote for the Daily Telegraph between 1899 and 1928. He was the author of numerous books on the Great War at sea.

 

Find Primary Sources in Online Subscription Databases

Important notes for searching for primary sources in news / periodical databases:

  • Always limit your search to the date range to the war years, 1914-1918.
  • Try searching terms, phrases, etc. that were commonly used at the time in relation to your topic.
  • Look at other limiters on the advanced search page that might improve your results, such as article, commentary, editorial, essay, feature, front page / cover story, letter to the editor, etc.

History Databases Containing Primary Source Materials

Find Primary Sources on the Internet

GENERAL COLLECTIONS

The British Library: World War One: Collection Items Discover over 500 historical sources from both sides of the conflict, contributed by institutions from across Europe.

NEW British Pathe Film Archive: WWI, the Definitive Collection British Pathé holds one of the finest and most comprehensive WW1 archives in the world.  Hundreds of films are available to view (but not to copy). Categories include Women, Gas Attacks, Trench Warfare, The Home Front, Artillery and Shelling, Machine Guns, and more. 

EuroDocs: World War I Look for those available in English translation. From Brigham Young University Library.

The Great War, 1914 to 1918 from the UK National Archives.

Guide to Online Primary Sources: World War I From UC San Diego.

Imperial War Museum (United Kingdom)

International Encyclopedia of the First World War: Websites

Internet History Sourcebook: World War I

National Archives  (United Kingdom)

NEW Stories from the World War One Collection of the State Library of New South Wales, Australia include the personal accounts found in diaries, maps that document the progress of the war, newspapers and ephemera that reflect what was happening on the home front, life captured through the photographer’s lens.

The War of the Nations: Portfolio in Rotogravure Etchings This remarkable image collection was originally published by the New York Times shortly after the armistice. The Library of Congress is not aware of any U.S. copyright protection (see Title 17, U.S.C.), or any other restrictions. 

World War I Document Archive From Brigham Young University Library.

World War I Primary Resource Guide aims to highlight a range of key primary resources relevant to the British experience of WWI, such as life in the armed forces, the homefront, cultural output (literature, etc). From The Bodleian Library of Oxford University.

TOPIC SPECIFIC

ARTS

THE HOMEFRONT 

LIFE AS A SOLDIER

MILITARY STRATEGY and TACTICS

NAVAL TACTICS

TREATIES AND ALLIANCES

  • Paris Peace Conference and Treaties Signed Informative pages from the National WWI Museum and Memorial.
  • Primary Documents pre-1914 to post-1919  This section of the website contains a collection of primary documents that document the course of the war via source - often official government - material. Each primary document, including treaties and alliances, is categorized by year.  Use the sidebar to the right to select the year you are interested in; a list of available documents from that year will then be displayed for selection.Use the navigation tool in the right sidebar to access important documents including treaties and alliances. From FirstWorldWar.com.

WEAPONRY

  • NEW British Pathe Film Archive: WWI, the Definitive Collection Categories include Tanks, Machine Guns, Gas Attacks, Artillery and Shelling, Aerial Warfare, Cavalry. 
  • Weapons and Warfare The Great War saw many changes in the way war was fought. One of the biggest changes was the use of new weapons and technology as each side tried to break the stalemate of trench warfare. In this case study, you are going to look at that new technology and its impact. Read the background information and then look at the sources. From the UK National Archives.

WOMEN

NoodleTools Tips: Primary Sources

PLEASE NOTE: Do not copy and paste complete citations from electronic sources. 

NoodleTools cannot generate footnotes from copied and pasted citations.

 

For a new citation, click on +New Source.

To cite a primary source, first choose the NoodleTools option that best describes where you found it:

  • Database = a document found in a Taft Subscription Database such as the New York Times, 1851-2014 or Annals of American History.
    • You must provide the permanent URL for your source. Look for terms such as permalink, persistent link, durable link, "Get link", or Cite.
  • Website = a document on a website found through a search engine such as Google or the directory of internet resources on this guide.

Next determine what kind of primary source you are citing:

  • Look at the list of options in NoodleTools. Is it a newspaper article, a speech, a letter, or another item listed? If so, choose that item type.
  • If you are not sure, you can use Anthology / Collection which enables you to cite a source found within another source.

You can also email Mr. Padgett or Ms. Taylor, and we'll help you figure it out.