Digitized Primary Sources

Many of these materials were produced through the NEH-funded Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age in 2004. In the spring of 2016, the American Historical Association and the American Historical Review began compiling a list of digitized primary sources to be posted publically. The AHR began publishing a curated listing of digitized primary source collections in the May 2016 issue.


  • Migration and the American South

    A guide on teaching migration in the American South with digital sources, compiled by John Beck as part of the 2004 project Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age.

  • The Conquest of Mexico

    A once great civilization, the Mexica Empire was left in ruins when the Spaniards razed Tenochtitlan to replace it with a Spanish capital, Mexico City. Historians still cannot agree on why this impressive civilization fell so quickly. This project, created by Nancy Fitch, is an experiment in using hypermedia to construct a virtual learning environment in which students can use primary sources to come to their own conclusions about why the Mexicas fell, while learning the process by which historians produce the history they find in their textbooks.

  • The Columbian Exchange

  • Colonial Life

  • Founding Documents

  • Slavery

  • Documents for Exploration and Discussion

  • The Anti-Saloon League

    One of Dan Kallgren's assignments. Students analyze digital primary sources in order to contextualize and understand the motivation of the Anti-Saloon League members.

  • Images of Power: Art as an Historiographic Tool

    This guide compiled by Jeff Kinard contains images of significant artworks intended to assist students in their understanding of historical contexts from ancient civilization to early modern times.

  • World Civilizations: The Ancient Period to 500 CE

    In David Smith's project, students use world history methods (Big Picture, Diffusion, Syncretism, Comparison, and Common Phenomena) to interpret secondary and primary materials. Primary material is handled through directed reading questions that focus on three classics: the Odyssey, the Ramayana and the Analects.

  • The World History Survey: Visual Literacy and Associative Thought

    Lael Sorensen has compiled visual primary sources, arranged by civilization, for students and teachers to utilize in the medieval section of their world history survey. All of the lessons seek to teach visual literacy and to encourage associative thought.

  • Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World

    A project compiled by Jim Leloudis which focuses on the evolution of Piedmont mill towns presented in Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World. In each section, students and instructors can read a historical overview of the issues addressed, view photographs, listen to audio clips of interviews with mill workers, and access ideas for lesson plans based on the unit.

  • Creation Stories and Epics

    This project for undergraduates and instructors offers introductions to the Epic of Gilgamesh, the book of Genesis, and the Popol Vuh. The pages guide readers through a series of basic questions about their origins and meaning. It also provides links to complete or partial translations of each text plus related information on writing, ancient visual arts, archaeology, and other creation stories.

  • Imperialism: European, American, and Japanese

    A multi-part project compiled by Thomas Reins that considers the causes and consequences of modern imperialism, using China as a case study, by asking students to analyze a diverse set of primary sources.

  • Sixteen Months to Sumter

    This site provides access to over 1,000 newspaper editorials detailing the shifting tides of emotion and opinion in the 16 months leading to Southern secession and the American Civil War. The site is intended primarily as a teaching resource, to enrich students’ exploration and understanding of the period and assist history teachers by expanding the available primary sources.

  • The 19th Century US Survey and American Religions through the Civil War

    David Hoeveler provides reviews of web resources teachers might use in teaching either a 19th century US histoey survey or a course on American religion through the Civil War.

  • Discovering American Social History on the Web

    Dan Kallgren developed several sample assignments for use in his undergraduate survey course "United States History Since the Civil War," in the spring of 2000. Assignments can be used inidividually or in series, as each is accompanied by suggested reading and primary sources.

  • The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

    One of Dan Kallgren's assignments. Students read a section from "Out of Many; A History of the American People" by John Mack Faragher, et al., to contextualize primary source documents about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. After analyzing the sources, the students write a short report.

  • Mapping Suburbanization

    One of Dan Kallgren's assignments. Using topographical maps from the University of New Hampshire, students explore how the landscape surrounding a 1950s New Hampshire city changed over time. Students are asked to consider how sociopolitical factors such as the Cold War might have affected the development of the United States.

  • Linking Family History and World History

    Linda Pomerantz shares a lesson plan designed to illustrate ways that family history research using visual primary sources may be incorporated into a world history survey course. The lesson demonstrates ways to work with primary source materials and link them to large themes in world history.

  • Teaching Difficult Legal or Political Concepts: Using Online Primary Sources in Writing Assignments

    Sue C. Patrick's shares syllabi from her United States History and Western Civilization courses, which include assignments and links to digital primary sources. She also reviews a number of digital primary sources for the benefit of other instructors interested in using them in the classroom.

  • JFK's Executive Orders and the New Frontier

    One of Dan Kallgren's assignments. Students analyze executive orders from President Kennedy to draw out themes and place them in the context of Kennedy's agenda.

  • United States History from the Civil War to the Present Syllabus

    Sue C. Patrick's syllabus for her United States History from the Civil War to the Present course, which includes assignments and links to digital primary sources.

  • United States History through the Civil War Syllabus

    Sue C. Patrick's syllabus for a United States History through the Civil War course. The syllabus includes assignments and links to digital primary sources.

  • Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age: Reconceptualizing the Introductory Survey Course

    This web project offers historians models for how to use digitized primary sources in survey courses in World History and the History of the Americas. The topics of the models vary, as does the technological sophistication. The AHA hopes that history faculty from technological novices to experts can find something of use from perusing this site.