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American Historical Review Digital Primary Sources

A list from the American Historical Review of open access databases containing digitized primary sources for historical research.

Chinese Text Project (Donald Sturgeon)
“The Chinese Text Project is an online open-access digital library that makes pre-modern Chinese texts available to readers and researchers all around the world. The site attempts to make use of the digital medium to explore new ways of interacting with these texts that are not possible in print. With over thirty thousand titles and more than five billion characters, the Chinese Text Project is also the largest database of pre-modern Chinese texts in existence.”
Regions: China
Dates: 1046 B.C.E.-1936 C.E.

National Archives of Japan Digital Archive (National Archives of Japan)
“Provides access to the descriptions and digitized images of the historical records preserved by the National Archives of Japan,” including millions of images of administrative and corporate records, culturally significant letters, maps, charts, and drawings.
Regions: Japan; East Asia
Dates: ancient-present

Ghazni: Italian Archaeological Mission in Afghanistan (Gerda Henkel Stiftung; University of Naples “L’Orientale”)
"Buddhist and Islamic Archaeological Data from Ghazni, Afghanistan." The digitized objects, which include coins, clay sculptures, potsherds, mural paintings, marbles, and alabasters, are supplemented by excavation journals, notes, publications, photographs, drawings, and digital renderings of findings.
Regions: Afghanistan
Dates: 100-1300

Southeast Asia Digital Library (Northern Illinois University; Various repositories)
“The Southeast Asia Digital Library (SEADL) exists to provide educators and their students, as well as scholars and members of the general public, with a wide variety of materials published or otherwise produced in Southeast Asia. Drawn largely from the collections of universities and individual scholars in this region, the SEADL contains digital facsimiles of books and manuscripts, as well as multimedia materials and searchable indexes of additional Southeast Asian resources. Nations represented in the collection include Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.”
Regions: Southeast Asia
Dates: 684-present

Panjab Digital Library (independent non-profit partnering with many libraries)
“The mission of the Panjab Digital Library (PDL) is to locate, digitize, preserve, collect and make accessible the accumulated wisdom of the Panjab region, without distinction as to script, language, religion, nationality, or other physical condition . . . PDL is dedicated to: Addressing heritage loss due to environment, ignorance and destruction; Saving invaluable treasures to enrich the present and enlighten the future; Connecting people globally by providing continued free online access.”
Regions: Punjab
Dates: 15th c.-20th c.

Biblioteca Sineca 2.0 (University of Vienna)
A digitized bibliography of "Western Books on China in Libraries in Vienna/Austria" and a smaller number held elsewhere, with links to digitized versions of most texts. Items are primarily in French, German, and English; were published from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries; and include reference books, travelogues, and translations of Chinese classics.
Regions: World; China
Dates: 1477-1939

Rare & Special eZone (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)
This digital archive “is the search and retrieval interface for accessing publicly available digitized materials from the [Hong Kong University of Science and Technology] Library’s University Archives and Special Collections. The digitization work commenced in April 2013, and materials are continually being added . . . Materials which have been selected for digitization illuminate significant stages of civilization development in the East and the West, and highlight where they overlapped.”
Regions: China; Taiwan; Global
Dates: 1493-present

Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts (National Library of Laos; the University of Passau; Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz)
“The Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts makes images of over 12,000 texts from throughout Laos easily accessible for study . . . . There is a wide diversity in the manuscript collection, covering a large geographical area and historical timeframe, different literary traditions and schools of scribes, and different languages and scripts. The majority of the texts are from the Lao, Lan Na and Tai Lue traditions, with smaller numbers in Tai Nuea, and Tai Dam, etc.”
Regions: Laos
Dates: early 16th c.-unknown

Southeast Asia Visions Collection (JSTOR; Cornell University Library's John M. Echols Collection)
“The Visions collection includes the written and photographed experiences of Europeans and Americans who traveled to Southeast Asia during the period of imperialism . . . The Southeast Asia Visions collection includes a selection of historically rich primary accounts which range chronologically from the 1550s to the 1920s. These travelogues, letters, official accounts, journals, autobiographies, guidebooks, and photo albums cover Southeast Asia in the main but also include East Asia, South Asia, Africa, South America and other locales. All sources are in English or French and with a few exceptions are written by European and American men and women.”
Regions: Southeast Asia
Dates: 1550s-1920s

Abhilekh Patal Portal for Access to Archives and Learning (National Archives of India)
“Abhilekh Patal is a full-featured web-portal to access the National Archives of India’s reference media and its digitized collections through the internet. It is ‘work-in-progress’ and both the reference media and the digital data will be regularly augmented.”
Regions: India
Dates: 17th c.-present

Japanese Maps: Manchester Digital Collections (University of Manchester Library)
“This collection draws on cartographic materials from the University of Manchester Library Japanese Collection and the Maps Collection. It holds roughly 60 items: mostly maps, charts and atlases, and a limited number of material classified as chishi, or topography (encyclopaedias, guidebooks, prints, surveys) that include maps or are otherwise related to cartography. The vast majority of items in the collection are printed, and they were produced in Japan during the Tokugawa or Edo period (1603-1868), with some exceptions, such as a Japanese tourist map of Japan published in 1897, and some maps of Japan published in Britain between the end of the eighteenth century and the end of the nineteenth century.”
Regions: Japan
Dates: 1603-1868

Treasures From the 17th and 18th Century VOC Archive (Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia [ANRI])
This site provides access to archives of the Dutch East India Company. The files focus on trade, personnel, logistics, and diplomatic affairs.
Regions: Indian Ocean World; Dutch Republic
Dates: 1612-1811

Aceh Books (Leiden University Libraries)
“This digital collection offers full-text access to more than 1200 publications on Aceh, the province located at the northern end of the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. The books form part of the collection of the Royal Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden which is kept at the Leiden University Library. The titles date from the 17th till the turn of the 21st century and are in a variety of languages such as Indonesian, Acehnese, English and Dutch. Due to copyright issues titles published after 1900 can only be accessed from desktop computers situated in the University Library.”
Regions: Aceh, Indonesia
Dates: 1812-1995

Kobe University Library Newspaper Clippings Collection (Kobe University)
This collection contains over three thousand newspaper clippings from newspapers distributed across Osaka, Tokyo, and Kobe, as well as clippings from both local and international Japanese-language newspapers. Clippings cover the early to mid-twentieth century, and the site includes a search tool for users proficient in Japanese; both transcriptions and digital scans are available.
Regions: Japan
Dates: 1836-1945

South Asia Open Archives (JSTOR; South Asia Materials Project; Center for Research Libraries)
“The South Asia Open Archives (SAOA), a subset of the South Asia Materials Project (SAMP), creates and maintains a collection of open access materials for the study of South Asia. This major collaborative initiative is aimed at addressing the current scarcity of digital resources pertinent to South Asia studies and at making collections more widely accessible both to North American scholars and to researchers worldwide.”
Regions: South Asia
Dates: 1838-1980

Photo Library of the French School of Asian Studies (École française d’Extrême-Orient)
“The EFEO [École française d’Extrême-Orient] Photo Library contains over 180,000 pictures. The materials used, a reflection of the evolution of photographic techniques, are of various kinds, including silver bromidegelation glass negatives, most of them stereoscopic; negatives; slides; silver and colour prints; digital images. The themes addressed illustrate the breadth of disciplines in which the EFEO is active, encompassing architecture, archaeology, epigraphy, ethnography, and art history. For historical reasons associated with the geographical locations of the EFEO’s original missions, Cambodia and Vietnam are particularly well represented in the Photo Library, as is, to a lesser degree, Laos.”
Regions: South Asia; Southeast Asia
Dates: 1866-2017

The Meiji and Taisho Eras in Photographs (National Diet Library)
This photograph collection, held by the National Diet Library, documents the historical scenery of Meiji and Taisho Japan prior to the country’s modernization and its reconstruction and redevelopment following natural disasters and war. “The NDL has selected photos of buildings, famous tourist locations and other scenery from these materials,” and visitors can search the collection by region or by category, using keywords or maps; the site also includes articles and other digital exhibitions.
Regions: Japan
Dates: 1893-1926

Korean Photo Picture Postcards (International Research Center for Japanese Studies)
“Photo picture postcards of Korea, published 1900–1940 (collection of Yamamoto Shunsuke, Kyoto; former researcher at the Koryo Museum of Art, Kyoto), are presented in digital format together with publication data and other details . . . They are classified under (I) landscapes; (II) scenes of everyday life; (III) Post Office–issued (kansei) postcards, commemorative postcards; (IV) postmarked postcards, postcard packets; (V) photograph/stereo-photograph cards; (VI) sightseeing guides, etc.; and (VII) donated postcards. Categories I to IV are now available. Postcards in V, VI, and VII, once organized by category, will be made available in stages.”
Regions: Korea
Dates: 1900s-1940s

Chinese Posters: Propaganda, Politics, History, Art (Chinese Posters Foundation)
“This website aims to present Chinese propaganda posters through virtual exhibitions, theme presentations and a web-database. It also provides additional information in the form of biographical notes of poster artists, resources, etc.” The website is “continually growing to become an ever better showcase for one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of poster propaganda, and a visual chronicle of the history of modern China.”
Regions: China
Dates: 1925-present

Ling Long Women's Magazine (Columbia University)
This collection is a digital archive of over two hundred issues of the Chinese women’s magazine Ling long, which was published during the 1930s in Shanghai. The issues are digitized from cover to cover, featuring color images and the original Chinese texts along with a guide provided by the archivists on how to navigate the "unique layout" of a Ling long issue. This archive presents valuable sources for understanding the public and private lives of Chinese women during the Republican period.
Regions: Asia; China
Dates: 1930-1939

The Nanking Massacre Archival Project (Yale Divinity School Library)
"This web site provides access to first-hand accounts and photographs from Westerners who remained in Nanking after the Japanese invasion."
Regions: China; Japan
Dates: 1937-1938

The 1947 Partition Archive (1947 Archive)
This interactive archive is “dedicated to documenting the people’s history of the 1947 India-Pakistan Partition,” using crowdsourcing and other methods to compile memories and histories of the Partition. Visitors may search the archive and use an interactive map to view migration routes and select from a growing collection of oral histories.
Regions: India; Pakistan
Dates: 1947-1947

Korean War Propaganda Leaflets (North Dakota State University Archives)
“During the Korean War, North Dakota native Albert G. Brauer served as Chief of the Projects Branch, Psychological Warfare Division, G3 section. He was responsible for overseeing the creation of propaganda pamphlets that were airdropped over North Korea. This collection contain propaganda leaflets produced by the United States Army as well as leaflets produced by the communist forces in Korea.” There are over one hundred items. The records are annotated with descriptions and translations of Korean text.
Regions: North Korea
Dates: 1950-1953

"Beijing Spring"-Memories of the Chinese Democracy Movement, 1978-1981 (University of Vienna)
Oral history interviews that Austrian sinologist and former radio journalist Helmut Opletal conducted with civil rights activists and other participants in the events.
Regions: China
Dates: 1978-1981