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Guide to primary sources

Historical records, publications, maps, and images, available from CSU-Pueblo Library databases and public collections.

Using primary sources in research

History books and papers are all about interpretation of primary sources. You pick a historical event or trend, and then examine the evidence of the time—newspapers, manuscripts, photographs, letters and diaries, official records, and artifacts—looking for information about what people thought and how they acted. Your writing is an argument on how to interpret this evidence, and part of an ongoing conversation with other historians about whether your interpretation (and theirs) are correct. 

To write a history paper, you'll need to consult booksprimary sources, and scholarly articles to show that you've examined the evidence, read other historians' interpretations, and that you have something new to add. You may choose to argue for a different interpretation, or present compelling new evidence that strengthens an existing an argument. 

This guide is a comprehensive list of where to find primary sources. It includes both subscription databases (collections that the CSU-Pueblo Library pays to access), and public collections from other museums, archives, and libraries. 


Primary sources pose unique problems: biases, incomplete and inaccurate information, social norms, and economic constraints all influence what is recorded and by whom. Finding and interpreting primary sources is an important skill. 

Using Primary Sources covers major themes from medieval to modern periods, with examples on how to interpret letters, photographs, legal documents, pamphlets, diaries, and audio recordings.

History course guides