In the Classroom > Unit Overview > Lesson 15



Think of a primary source as a "rough draft" of history. It needs to be put in a larger context and not accepted for itself alone.
A primary source is one that was written at the time of the period under study. A primary source can be any one of the following:

A written account

Diaries, letters, ledgers, account books, notes, vital records, bills, wills, inventories, military records, tax records

A published account

An account that was published as well as newspapers, books, periodicals, almanacs, cookbooks, broadsides, travel books, children's literature, novels, poetry, pamphlets, sermons, advertisements

An image

Paintings, drawings, photographs, lithographs, woodcuts, maps, video, film

An artifact

Buildings, machines, objects, clothing, weapons, etc.

The physical environment

The built environment

A human being

Anyone alive or whose voice and thoughts were captured by an electronic recording may be considered a primary source for their life experiences. They are eyewitnesses to history.

***Remember: Just because something is a primary source does not mean it is accurate or truthful. A person may be an eyewitness to an event and still not see it all or understand what they have witnessed.



1. What is it?
2. What is the date?
3. Who wrote it?
4. For what audience was the document written?
5. List the points made by the author in your own words.
6. Why was the document written?
7. What does the document tell you about life at the time?
8. Is the document well written? Was it successful in getting its point across?
9. What questions do you have for the author?