What is a Primary Source?
Primary sources are original historical or legal documents that may include speeches, pamphlets, government documents, autobiographies or memoirs, letters, artifacts, pieces of art, or data results or analysis. It is important to analyze primary source documents in order to determine your own interpretations of the author’s opinions or purposes. For example, students of history and government may read The Federalist Papers in order to understand the authors’ reasons for ratifying the United States Constitution.
What is a Secondary Source?
Secondary sources are documents that comment on or interpret primary sources. Secondary sources may include newspaper or magazine articles, reviews of books or movies, reference materials, or biographies. For instance, a newspaper editor may write an opinion piece commenting on new government legislation.
This list of annotated primary sources may be used with Documents of Freedom. Several of these primary sources are used throughout the textbook, but the full versions are available here with annotated descriptions of the content.