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A Guide to World History

Subject Librarian

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Michael Schaefer
Washington University in St. Louis
John M. Olin Library
Research Center, 1st floor, Room 128
p. 314-935-7365


A primary source is defined as "a document or record containing firsthand information or original data on a topic, used in preparing a derivative work. Primary sources include original manuscripts, periodical articles reporting original research or thought, diaries, memoirs, letters, journals, photographs, drawings, posters, film footage, sheet music, songs, interviews, government documents, public records, eyewitness accounts, newspaper clippings, etc." (Joan M. Reitz, Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science What is or is not a primary source can perhaps be better understood by comparison with the definition of a secondary source: "any published or unpublished work that is one step removed from the original source, usually describing, summarizing, analyzing, evaluating, derived from, or based on primary source materials, for example, a review, critical analysis, second-person account, or biographical or historical study. Also refers to material other than primary sources used in the preparation of a written work" (Reitz,

Newspapers and periodicals

Archival Material


Research Centers Directory - in print and online


The Enlightenment

Free Online Palaeography Sources

Online Primary Source Collections

Wilson Center Digital Archive "International History Declassified" - Constructed and maintained by the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program, the Digital Archive contains newly declassified historical materials from archives around the world—much of it in translation and including diplomatic cables, high level correspondence, meeting minutes and more.

Bandung Conference documents - The 1955 Bandung conference was one of the most important conferences held in the twentieth century. It’s also one of the least well known. Leaders of the major independent Asian and African countries gathered at this Indonesian city from April 18-22, 1955. There, they first set in motion the concept of South-South solidarity — newly-independent countries of Africa and Asia gathering to seek common ground. This e-dossier tells the story of the Bandung conference through the conference bulletin and additional documents. The African-Asian Conference Bulletin was published in the lead-up and aftermath to the conference and on a daily basis while the conference was going on. It was produced by a conference secretariat staff and published by the Indonesian ministry of information.

Reconceptualizing the Cold War: On-the-ground Experiences In Asiaaims to build an online archive of oral history collections concerning the Cold War and decolonization in Asia, with a particular focus on Southeast, East, and South Asia. Based on oral history interviews and archival research across Asia, we aim to capture the emotions, enthusiasms, and fears of the era, and explores experiences and memories of ordinary people who witnessed various kinds of real and imagined wars.


Oculi Mundi is the home of The Sunderland Collection of world maps, celestial maps, atlases, globes, and books of knowledge. comprises over 130 exquisite objects dating from circa 1200 to the early 1800s. Featuring world maps, celestial maps, atlases, books of knowledge and globes, the Collection was founded by Dr. Neil Sunderland, an avid traveller to remote places who has been a passionate collector of maps.