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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.

Heidelberg Historic Literature (Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg)
Hosted and maintained by the University Library of Heidelberg, this vast historical collection contains digitized manuscripts, charters, incunabula, literature, maps, and drawings from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, mostly including materials originating in Heidelberg and in Germany or German-speaking areas more broadly.
Regions: Europe; German-speaking world
Dates: 900-2011

British History Online (Institute of Historical Research)
"A digital library of key printed primary and secondary sources for the history of Britain and Ireland, with a primary focus on the period between 1300 and 1800."
Regions: Britain; Ireland
Dates: 1188-1870

Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707 (University of St. Andrews)
“A fully searchable database containing the proceedings of the Scottish parliament from the first surviving act of 1235 to the union of 1707.” According to the site, “the inclusion of new parliaments and conventions of estates, committee records, parliamentary minutes and additional material makes the online edition the most comprehensive record of Scottish parliamentary proceedings ever available.” The transcriptions “are fully cited and an extensive editorial apparatus included,” and “a parallel translation of the original Latin, French and Scots text into English and the standardisation of place and personal names, where identifiable, enables keyword searches on an infinite number of subjects, with direct links from the modern translation to the original manuscript record.”
Regions: Scotland
Dates: 1235-1707

Early Modern Annotated Books from UCLA's Clark Library (UCLA)
“Comprising over 250 early modern printed books bearing handwritten annotations, this collection offers rich evidence for studying the material history of reading. The books collected here range in subject matter (from science and natural history to literature and philosophy), time period (1472–1818), and type of annotation (from scholarly commentary and cross-referencing to printers’ notations and polemical criticism). The annotators themselves include translator John Florio, literary critic John Dennis, painter William Hogarth, French bibliophile François-Louis Jamet, English ephemera collector Narcissus Luttrell, avian enthusiast Judith Gowing, York printer Thomas Gent, London lawyer Thomas Turner, country vicar Thomas Austen, and many other identified and unidentified readers.”
Regions: Europe
Dates: 1470-1869

Treasure in Full: Renaissance Festival Books (British Library)
"View 253 digitised Renaissance festival books (selected from over 2,000 in the British Library’s collection) that describe the magnificent festivals and ceremonies that took place in Europe."
Regions: Europe
Dates: 1475-1700

DigiBaeck:German-Jewish History Online (Leo Baeck Institute)
Online collection consisting mainly of archival materials pertaining to German-Jewish historical experience since the seventeenth century. The site also includes thousands of printed and visual sources as well as audio recordings.
Regions: Germany
Dates: 1476-present

Correspondance of William of Orange (Various repositories)
"This project aims to present a complete survey of all the surviving correspondence associated with William of Orange (1533–1584). The term ‘correspondence’ is used in the broadest sense and includes not only letters that were sent to or written by William of Orange, but also commissions, petitions, instructions and speeches. Research for this project was carried out in almost 200 archives and libraries in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, England, France, Italy, Austria, Poland, Spain, Vatican City, Sweden and Switzerland."
Regions: Europe
Dates: 1533-1584

The Medici Archive Project (Medici Archive Project)
“The Medici Archive Project is currently developing the Medici Interactive Archive—MIA—a prototype web portal specifically dedicated to the digital reconstruction, presentation, and preservation of the Medici Archive as it existed before the extinction of the Grand Ducal dynasty in 1743 . . . This portal will enable scholars to upload the entire multifarious corpus of the Medici Archive onto an online archival interface. This will allow scholars around the world to engage with new research methodologies and trajectories within an ever-growing body of digitized manuscripts from the Medici Archive.”
Regions: Tuscany; Italy; Europe
Dates: 1537-1743

The Breadalbane Collection (University of Edinburgh)
“The Breadalbane Collection, an eclectic gathering of 16th century documents of the Campbells of Glenorchy, provides unique insight into Scottish life during the early modern period. The collection was edited by Prof Jane Dawson.” It includes hundreds of letters, supplemented with background information on subjects including sixteenth-century letterwriting, the history of the clan, local geography, and the authors’ choice of language.
Regions: Scotland
Dates: 1548-1583

Bibliothèque bleue (Médiathèque du Grand Troyes; University of Chicago; Collaborative Initiative for French and North American Libraries)
“The Bibliothèque bleue de Troyes represents a long and storied tradition in popular French print culture. Spanning more than 250 years and involving the publication of massproduced, inexpensive books that were sold to peasants for pennies by colporteurs (peddlers), the Bibliothèque bleue was comprised of texts ranging from the practical (recipes, almanacs, and how-to books) to the pious (hagiographies, prayer books, and other religious instruction) and to the entertaining (fiction, romans de chevalerie, songbooks, burlesque), providing a unique insight into the popular culture of 17th to mid19th century France. The most significant collection (some 2570 volumes) of Bibliothèque bleue material can be found at the Me´diathe`que du Grand Troyes, whose digitization efforts—digital page images of some 623 separate imprints— form the basis of the Bibliothèque bleue.”
Regions: France
Dates: 1592-1845

Letters of Phillip II, King of Spain (Brigham Young University Library)
“These letters from Philip II, King of Spain, mainly to Don Diego de Orellana de Chaves, Royal Governor of Spain’s northern coast, date from the time of naval war against England and France, 1592–1597. The collection itself is in the possession of the Special Collections Department of the Harold B. Lee Library . . . The letters have not been previously published.” Materials include “174 letters and documents, all in Spanish: 172 manuscript, 2 printed.” They are presented in facsimile and annotated with descriptions in English and in Spanish.
Regions: Spain; France; England; Ireland; Scotland
Dates: 1592-1597

English Broadside Ballad Archive (University of California, Santa Barbara)
"EBBA has made broadside ballads from many different holdings easily and fully accessible: gathered together on one site as ballad sheet facsimiles, facsimile transcriptions, text transcriptions, and recordings, and extensively catalogued. All ballads can be viewed via basic and advanced search functions."
Regions: England
Dates: 1600-1700

The Hartlib Papers (University Library, University of Sheffield)
“Samuel Hartlib .. . a great seventeenth-century ‘intelligencer’ and man of science, set out to record all human knowledge and make it universally available for the education of all mankind. His correspondence, which runs to over 25,000 folios of original materials, came to the University Library in the 1960s. The full-text electronic edition realises Hartlib’s vision some 300 years later. The project’s objective was to create a complete electronic edition with full-text transcription and facsimile images of all 25,000 seventeenth-century manuscripts.”
Regions: Europe
Dates: 1600-1662

Early Stuart Libels (Early Modern Literary Studies)
"A web-based edition of early seventeenth-century political poetry from manuscript sources," edited by Alastair Bellany (Rutgers University) and Andrew McRae (University of Exeter). "It brings into the public domain over 350 poems, many of which have never before been published."
Regions: England
Dates: 1603-1640

Key Documents of German-Jewish History Online (Institute for the History of German Jews)
“This online source edition published by the Institute for the History of German Jews uses a selection of sources, so-called key documents, to thematically highlight central aspects in Hamburg’s Jewish history from the early modern age to the present. Transcripts as well as digital facsimiles are provided for all sources, which are placed in historical context by interpretations and background information. The source material is further enriched by information on its provenance, historical responses to it, and scholarly controversies. All content is provided in both German and English.”
Regions: Germany
Dates: 1603-2016

The Newton Project (Oxford University)
"An online edition of all of Sir Isaac Newton’s (1642–1727) writings—whether they were printed or not. The edition presents a full (diplomatic) rendition featuring all the amendments Newton made to his own texts or a more readable (normalised) version. We also make available translations of his most important Latin religious texts."
Regions: England
Dates: 1612-1761

Delpher (National Library of the Netherlands)
This database contains millions of digitized texts from Dutch newspapers, magazines, and books. Easily searchable, all texts are derived from the collections of various scientific institutions, libraries, and cultural heritage institutions.
Regions: Western Europe
Dates: 1618-1995

The Down Survey of Ireland (Trinity College Dublin)
“Taken in the years 1656–1658, the Down Survey of Ireland is the first ever detailed land survey on a national scale anywhere in the world. The survey sought to measure all the land to be forfeited by the Catholic Irish in order to facilitate its redistribution to Merchant Adventurers and English soldiers. Copies of these maps have survived in dozens of libraries and archives throughout Ireland and Britain, as well as in the National Library of France. This Project has brought together for the first time in over 300 years all the surviving maps, digitised them and made them available as a public online resource ... The Down Survey Maps section comprises digital images of all the surviving Down Survey maps at parish, barony and county level. The written descriptions (terrier) of each barony and parish that accompanied the original maps have also been included. The second section, Historical GIS, brings together the maps and related contemporaneous sources—Books of Survey and Distribution, the 1641 Depositions, the 1659 Census—in a Geographical Information System (GIS). All these sources have been georeferenced with 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps, Google Maps and satellite imagery.” It can be searched for landowner by name, landownership by religion, and murders in the 1641 rebellion.
Regions: Ireland
Dates: 1641-1670

1641 Depositions (Manuscripts and Archives Research Library of Trinity College Dublin)
“Fully searchable digital edition of the 1641 Depositions at Trinity College Dublin Library, comprising transcripts and images of all 8,000 depositions, examinations and associated materials.” The depositions are “witness testimonies mainly by Protestants, but also by some Catholics, from all social backgrounds, concerning their experiences of the 1641 Irish rebellion. The testimonies document the loss of goods, military activity, and the alleged crimes committed by the Irish insurgents.” Readers must create an account to view the depositions.
Regions: Ireland
Dates: 1641-1653

The Database of Court Officers, 1660-1837 (R. O. Bucholz)
Contains "the career histories of every remunerated officer and servant of the English Royal household from the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 to the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837."
Regions: England
Dates: 1660-1837

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey (Project Directors Clive Emsley, Tim Hitchcock, and Robert Shoemaker; Project Manager Sharon Howard)
A digital archive containing the records of 197,745 criminal trials held at the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court. This fully searchable database also includes the biographical details of roughly 2,500 men and women executed at Tyburn.
Regions: London
Dates: 1674-1913

The Comédie-Française Registers Project (Comédie-Française)
This project provides digitized access to the daily receipt registers and a selection of other administrative records belonging to the French theater troupe Com´edie-Fran¸caise. Additionally, a fully searchable database derived from these registers allows one to study the attendance patterns of plays performed by this troupe.
Regions: Paris
Dates: 1680-1793

London Lives, 1690-1800: Crime, Poverty, And Social Policy in The Metropolis (University of Sheffield)
A searchable compilation of eight archives and fifteen databases, which generate 3.35 million names of individuals living in London during the eighteenth century. In addition to primary source data, the website includes a wiki and allows researchers to register for a personal online workspace that can be used to build biographies from the data.
Regions: London; England
Dates: 1690-1800

Dissenting Academies Online: Virtual Library System (Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English)
"A union catalogue which represents the holdings and loans of selected dissenting academies in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It has been compiled from a range of sources, including historic catalogues, shelf lists, loan registers, and surviving books from the academy libraries."
Regions: England
Dates: 1700-1900

Прожито (Европейский университет в Санкт-Петербурге)
This Russian-language website offers a portal to digital archives and transcriptions of diaries and similar ego documents in Russian, Ukrainian, and English. The site relies on volunteers to assist with transcription, editing, typesetting, and indexing/tagging, and visitors may contribute as well by providing the researchers with original family documents, manuscripts, or diaries.
Regions: Russia; Ukraine; Belarus
Dates: 1700-present

The Linnaean Correspondance (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)
"The ultimate objective of the Linnaean correspondence is to publish the complete text of the letters sent and received by Linnaeus, together with summaries in English. Facsimiles of the original manuscripts and of selected printed editions will be provided ... The texts and the summaries are searchable, as is the database."
Regions: Europe; Sweden
Dates: 1707-1778

Basel Mission Archives (Basel Mission/Mission 21, Basel, Switzerland)
Interactive online collection consisting of high-resolution photographs, maps, and references to texts archived in Basel. Most of these materials document missionary encounters in China, India, the Americas, Ghana, Cameroon, and Kalimantan in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Regions: World; Africa; Asia; Europe
Dates: 1716-present

The Collected Poems of Gavin Turnbull (University of South Carolina)
"Presents the first-ever full collection of writings by the Scottish poet Gavin Turnbull. It includes the writings he published both in Scotland and later in America."
Regions: Scotland; United States
Dates: 1788-1809

The Municipal Archives of Lorient (Les Archives de Lorient)
The Municipal Archives of Lorient is a French-language digital resource on the history of the city of Lorient, offering documents, images, and other media archived and digitized from the eighteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first century. The archive contains a number of digitized records, including parish records; birth, marriage, and death records from 1793 to 2002; census documents and electoral records; and fascinating municipal correspondence between officials and residents. A search engine can be used to find information or media on specific buildings, places, people, and organizations from Lorient’s history; visitors to the archive can also search for records by author.
Regions: France; Lorient
Dates: 1793-present

Prozhito (Various repositories)
Transcriptions of thousands of Russian-language and dozens of Ukrainian-language diaries, searchable by date of composition, keyword, and sex and age of author. Items are annotated with biographical information about the diarists and references to published editions of the entries.
Regions: Russian Empire; Soviet Union; Russian Federation
Dates: 1804-1999

Carlyle Letters Online (Duke University Press)
"The Carlyle Letters Online features thousands of letters written by Scottish author and historian Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) and his wife, Jane Welsh Carlyle (1801–1866), to over 600 recipients throughout the world."
Regions: England
Dates: 1812-1866

Delacroix Correspondence (Various repositories)
This collection contains digitized images of handwritten letters by Eugène Delacroix, offering both original and modernized transcriptions; the modernized transcriptions include helpful footnotes and links to related letters. All of the letters are categorized by date and by recipient, and visitors can find additional library and museum holdings information for each letter. This French-language site also offers bibliographic resources, an index, and a glossary of terms, places, and people.
Regions: France
Dates: 1817-1863

Darwin Manuscripts (Cambridge Digital Library)
“This is a conceptually coherent set of over 30,000 digitised and edited manuscript pages, spanning 1835–1882. None of these documents have hitherto been digitised to the present high standard of full-colour and high-resolution. While several documents are classics of the Darwin manuscripts corpus, many have never been transcribed and edited before and many that have been published previously are presented here in new and radically improved editions.”
Regions: Global; United Kingdom
Dates: 1835-1882

Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium (Consortium of repositories)
Presents "interactive digital archives of life-writing extending from the coronation of Queen Victoria to the outbreak of World War I."
Regions: England
Dates: 1838-1914

Stalinka (University of Pittsburgh)
"Visual materials and artifacts relating to Stalin: photographs, posters, paintings, banners, sculptures, chinaware, pins, etc."
Regions: Russia
Dates: 1902-2007

Orwell Archive (University College London)
"The George Orwell Archive is the most comprehensive body of research material relating to the author George Orwell (Eric Blair) (1903–1950) anywhere."
Regions: England
Dates: 1903-1950

The Sassoon Diaries (Cambridge University Library)
Siegfried Sassoon was a soldier-poet who maintained fascinating journals and notebooks for most of his life—most notably his war diaries from his service in the British Army in the First World War. This digital document collection “holds the world’s richest assemblages of Sassoon’s manuscripts and archival papers,” and visitors can browse each journal and enjoy photographs of his handwritten diary entries, poetry, and sketches and doodles.
Regions: Europe
Dates: 1905-1959

Russian-German Project on the Digitization of German Documents in the Archives of the Russian Federation (Various repositories)
Following the Second World War, a number of confidential governmental, military, and intelligence documents were collected from the German Third Reich and then distributed to Allied countries, including Russia. In cooperation with the Russian Historical Society and the German Historical Institute in Moscow, the Russian-German Project on the Digitization of German Documents in the Archives of the Russian Federation has digitized these so-called “trophy collections” of German intelligence documents, now available online in this digital collection. Visitors to this Russian and German-language website can find digitized military documents from both world wars as well as dossiers of the German intelligence service.
Regions: Europe
Dates: 1912-1945

Letters, 1916-1923 (Various repositories)
“This digital collection includes letters held at institutions in Ireland and abroad alongside those in private collections. There are thousands of letters connecting hundreds of lives commenting a wide range of topics, from wars and violence at home and abroad including the Easter Rising, The Great War, The Anglo-Irish and Civil War, literature and art, love, politics, business, and ordinary life.” Visitors can browse the collection and even help the project by transcribing extant letters, in full or in part.
Regions: Ireland; United Kingdom
Dates: 1916-1922

German Propaganda Archive (Calvin College)
Digitized manuscripts and images that pertain to propagandistic enterprises in Germany under both the Nazi state and the German Democratic Republic. Some materials have been translated from German into English.
Regions: Germany
Dates: 1921-1989

Hannah Arendt Papers at the Library of Congress (Library of Congress)
This extensive digital primary source collection allows visitors to browse or search the papers and correspondence of Hannah Arendt. The series includes both personal letters, postcards, and writings and professional documents, reports, notes, and transcripts related to Arendt’s publications, lectures, and speeches. Visitors can also access a variety of miscellaneous primary sources, such as financial records and statements, newspaper clippings, course materials, and other ephemera, mostly from her time in the United States.
Regions: Germany; United States
Dates: 1923-1975

NS-Frauen-Warte:Die Einzige Parteiamtliche Frauenzeitschrift (Heidelberg University)
Digitized versions of the Nazi Party’s propagandistic women’s magazine, NS-Frauen-Warte. This online archive, which is organized chronologically, contains issues published between 1935 and 1945.
Regions: Germany
Dates: 1935-1945

Records of the International Brigades (Russian State Archive of Sociopolitical History)
“The records of Fond 545 reflect activities of the International Brigades and military units which took part in the civil war on the side of the Republican Army of Spain in 1936–1939 . . . Prior to its archival processing, the documents were on repository in the Joint Archive of the Foreign Personnel Commission of the Spanish Communist Party’s Central Committee . . . The documents were then transferred to the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) as a loose assortment of hand-written papers, typed documents and publications. The main language of the collection is Spanish, with many documents in 26 different languages, including French, English, German, Polish, Russian and others.” Ninety-four percent of the fond’s 339,687 sheets have been digitized.
Regions: Europe
Dates: 1936-1945

The Brexit Collection (London School of Economics)
“A collection of campaigning leaflets from the 1975 and 2016 referendums on the UK’s membership of the common market and EU. The leaflets are from a variety of individuals, political parties and organisations active during both campaigns.”
Regions: Britain
Dates: 1975-2016