One of the best ways to get to know a historical place and time is by reading accounts written by people who lived during that time. We generally think of primary sources as original documents from the historical period we are researching. The definition of primary source materials is not always a straightforward one. While some researchers believe when and why the document was created determines its eligibility as a primary source, others hold that how the document is used classifies whether or not it is a primary source. Primary sources at the Enoch Pratt Free Library State Library Resource Center:
Some examples of primary sources are:
One of the best ways to understand a particular historical period is by researching how people lived during that period. Where did they live and what kind of clothing did they wear? What foods did they enjoy and what did they do for entertainment? What kind of schools did they attend? How did they earn a living? The answers to these questions will tell us a great deal about a civilization.
Students in the 6th grade at the William Penn Charter School created this basic guide to life and culture in ancient Africa, China, India, Mesopotamia, and Canaan.
Ancient Civilizations for Kids
Using her many years of experience as a teacher, Kathi Mitchell offers a large collection of web resources designed for kids studying China, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Kush, Greece, Rome, Pompeii, and Phoenicia.
BBC – History for Kids
Designed for students between the ages of 5 and 14, this resource covers Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Vikings, among others.
Daily Life in Ancient Civilizations
Lin and Don Donn are teachers offering information on daily life in the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan civilizations as well as in ancient China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
dMarie Time Capsule
Ever wonder how much a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread cost when you were born? Go back in time and check out the news headlines, hit records, best-selling books, and popular TV shows.
Eyewitness to History
This award-winning web site presents eyewitness accounts of significant historical events from ancient times up to the present and features photographs, sound recordings, and film clips.
Internet Ancient History Sourcebook
Created by Prof. Paul Halsall at Fordham University, the Sourcebook incorporates primary sources from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Israel, Persia, and the Hellenistic World. The site also includes a useful section on human origins.
Internet Modern History Sourcebook
Designed for students and teachers, the Internet Modern History Sourcebook is a vast site covering modern world history with a special emphasis on Europe. Primary sources, maps, interdisciplinary topics, images, and multimedia sources including music are included. The site is hosted by Fordham University.
Kidipede - History for Kids
Dr. Karen Carr, Associate Professor of History at Portland State University created this history resource for young people. Among the areas covered are China, Egypt, Greece, India, Rome, western Asia, and North America.
Using art from the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University and the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, Odyssey Online provides an interactive voyage through the ancient Americas, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Near East, and sub-Saharan Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Time Machine to the Ancient World Produced under the auspices of the New South Wales (Australia) Country Areas Program, the Time Machine to the Ancient World allows you to explore daily life in China, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Sumer.
Ancient Egypt – the British Museum
The British Museum’s very informative look at the civilization of ancient Egypt concentrates on daily life, gods and goddesses, mummification, pyramids, time, trades, and writing.
Ancient History: Egyptians (BBC)
This resource created by the BBC focuses on various aspects of daily life including religious beliefs, the role and status of women, pyramid building, and mummification.
Daily Life in Ancient Egypt
Introduces young students to everyday life in ancient Egypt with information on Egyptian art, games, gods and goddesses, professions, schools, and the afterlife.
Life in Ancient Egypt (Carnegie Museum) The Carnegie Museum of Natural History uses its collection of more than 2500 ancient Egyptian artifacts to explore the Egyptian natural world, daily life, gods and religion, and funerary customs.
Daily Life in Ancient/Medieval Africa
Teacher Don Donn offers an introduction to the civilizations and cultures of Egypt, Kush, Ghana, Mali, Songhai, and Benin for young students.
Produced by Kidsnewsroom, this resource covers culture, daily life, government, industry, and social levels.
Ancient China – the British Museum
The British Museum’s web resource explores crafts and artisans, tombs and ancestors, geography, and writing.
Ancient India: How Did People Live in Ancient India?
Designed for a 6th grade world history curriculum, this web site explores ancient Indian architecture, art, music, religion, sports and games, and the caste system.
Ancient India – the British Museum
This web resource uses animations, 3-D models, and artifacts from the British Museum’s collections to give students a look at the culture, history, and religion of ancient India.
Daily Life in Ancient India
Introduces young students to ancient India through an exploration of daily life and culture from 3000 B.C. to the 7th century A.D.
Mesopotamia – the British Museum
Using artifacts from its vast collections, the British Museum’s web resource focuses on the civilizations of Sumer, Assyria, and Babylon.
The Ancient Greek World (University of Pennsylvania)
Looks at several aspects of daily life in the ancient Greek world including education, house furnishings, drinking parties, hunting, women’s life, and warfare.
Ancient History: Romans (BBC)
Features articles on food, gladiators, religion, slavery, and social pecking order in ancient Rome.
Children in Victorian Britain (BBC)
Let Bert the Chimney Sweep escort you on this fascinating interactive tour through work, play, and school in Victorian Britain.
Children of World War II (BBC)
Vera will take you on a guided tour of a British child’s life during World War II including looks at a typical home, rationing, and letters from evacuees.
Daily Life in Ancient Rome
Designed for younger students, this web site looks at Roman baths, clothing, entertainment, holidays and festivals, meals, religion, and the status of women.
Dominion & Domination of the Gentle Sex: the Lives of Medieval Women
After testing your knowledge with a short quiz, you can explore birth, marriage, and death from a medieval women’s perspective. Other topics covered include arts, fashion, medicine, religion, science, and warfare.
Internet Medieval Sourcebook
Developed by the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies, the Internet Medieval Sourcebook is an extensive and colorful resource devoted to all aspects of medieval life and culture. Maps, full text documents, secondary sources, and numerous links are included.
Life in Elizabethan England: a Compendium of Common Knowledge, 1558-1603
Whether you’re an actor, researcher, or reenactor, you’ll find this site a great resource for information on such topics as children, education, fashion, food, games, language, money, occupations, and religion in Elizabethan times.
Life in the Middle Ages
This comprehensive web resource offers useful information on castles, clothing, feudalism, food, knights, religion, weapons, and women.
Feudal Life: What Was It Really Like to Live in the Middle Ages?
Inspired by Annenberg Media’s Western Tradition series, the interested researcher can easily find information on feudal life, clothing, homes, health, religion, and arts and entertainment.
Victorian Articles and Information
If you’re interested in the Victorian Era, this web site will fill you in on calling card etiquette, clothing, furnishings, weddings, and funeral and mourning customs among other areas.
The Vikings (BBC)
Here’s a great introduction to the Vikings, offering information on Viking beliefs, daily life, trade, travel, and exploration. This site also includes a helpful timeline.
Africans in America: Conditions of Antebellum Slavery, 1830 - 1860
Produced under the aegis of the PBS Africans in America series, this article describes living conditions for slaves in the first half of the 19th century.
American Colonist's Library: Primary Source Documents Pertaining to Early American History Here’s a comprehensive collection of texts ranging from classical philosophers and works of the Renaissance to letters of settlers, colonial documents, and the writings of prominent personalities such as Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin: a treasure house of primary sources.
American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library
The Library of Congress American Memory Project features more than 60 collections of primary resources including books, broadsides, maps, motion pictures, manuscripts, pamphlets, photographs, sheet music, and other materials. The range of subject matter is overwhelming: African American Perspectives, Baseball Cards, Civil War Photographs, Native American History, the Spanish American War in Motion Pictures, Voices from the Dust Bowl, and WPA manuscripts.
Colonial Life (Kid Info)
Here’s a resource for students, parents, and teachers that offers a large selection of links on various aspects of daily life during colonial times. Subjects include clothing, currency, education, food, medicine, and occupations.
Colonial Williamsburg History
Viewers can explore early American life virtually in this Colonial Williamsburg Foundation History site. Resources on clothing, gardens, fifes & drums, archaeology, colonial living, children, African Americans, and biographies are featured.
Daily Life in Antebellum America
HistoryCentral’s web resource offers brief discussions of clothing, diversity on life, education, entertainment, family, food, homes, and language during the period before the American Civil War.
Daily Life in the Inca Empire
This site introduces young students to Inca architecture, government, inventions, professions, religion, and terrace farming.
Daily Life in the Maya Empire
Here’s a short but informative survey of daily life in the ancient Mayan civilization. The web site is another of Don Donn’s created specifically for younger students.
Digital History: Social History – Life Stories of Americans in the Early 1900s
Here’s a fascinating collection of interviews with Americans from all walks of life originally published in the early 1900s.
Documenting the American South: Primary Resources for the Study of Southern History, Literature, and Culture
Sponsored by the University Libraries at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the texts are largely taken from its collections. The site gives access to carefully evaluated digitized books and manuscripts on Southern history, literature, and culture from the colonial era through the early 20th century. Five major subject groupings are currently available: First-Person Narratives, Library of Southern Literature, North American Slave Narratives, the Southern Homefront (1861-1865), and the Church in the Southern Black Community.
Everyday Life in America in 1831 (University of Virginia)
Alexis de Tocqueville’s journals provide the source material for this interesting look at domestic life, housing, recreation, work, and fashion in 1830s America.
How the Civil War Soldiers Lived
Have you ever wondered what everyday life was like for the soldiers of the Union and the Confederacy? This resource uses first person accounts to explore various aspects of daily life including clothing, food, marching, and religion.
Life in the 13 American Colonies
This section of the Social Studies for Kids web site features useful information geared toward younger students on such topics as agriculture, education, food, and religion.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum: Urban Log Cabin and Excavation
Click on the rooms in the Urban Log Cabin and discover the lives of immigrant families living in New York’s Lower East Side in the years between 1870 and 1915. Peel away the layers of wallpaper and click on the floorboards to discover artifacts of daily life left behind by these families.
Native American Facts for Kids
Produced by the nonprofit organization, Native Languages of the Americas, this outstanding resource provides ready access to information on specific Native American groups ranging from the Abenakies through the Yuroks. Of particular note is the section demonstrating 10 different styles of Native American housing.
Native Americans - Daily Life in Olden Times
Another in teacher Don Donn’s series intended for younger students, this web site offers information on daily life among such Native American peoples as the Apache, Cherokee, Iroquois, Navajo, Pueblo, and Sioux.
Pioneer House: Daily Life of 17th Century American Colonists
Pioneer House was an interesting experiment in which 26 people volunteered to experience daily life in circumstances similar to those faced by the early American colonists. The companion web site provides insight into such topics as religion, punishments, social expectations, and women.
Rural Life in the Late 19th Century
Using excerpts from primary sources, this section from the Library of Congress’s Learning Page resource features sheet music, home remedies, photographs, and personal accounts in an attempt to understand the realities of American rural life during this period.
This British web site transports you to 1780. Select your guide from one of four representatives from the Asante, Fanti, Igbo, and Yoruba peoples and take an unforgettable journey through the 18th century slave experience.
The Southern Homefront, 1861-1865, documents Southern life during the Civil War, especially the unsuccessful attempt to create a viable nation state as evidenced in both private and public life. This resource contains more than four hundred digitized and encoded contemporary printed works and manuscripts, accompanied by many images of currency, manuscript letters, maps, broadsides, title pages, illustrations, and photographs. Southern Homefront is part of the University of North Carolina's respected Documenting the American South Collections.
20th Century American Culture
Here’s a great collection of interesting web sites covering various aspects of the American experience, decade by decade, during the 20th Century.
Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories
Nearly seven hours of extraordinary recordings of interviews done between 1932 and 1975 with former slaves can be heard through the Library of Congress. Twenty-three people told their stories not just of slavery but of the lives of African Americans born between 1823 and the early 1860s.
Voices from the Dust Bowl
Part of the Library of Congress's American Memory Project, Voices "is an online presentation of a multi-format ethnographic field collection documenting the everyday life of residents of Farm Security Administration (FSA) migrant work camps in central California in 1940 and 1941. This collection consists of audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, publications, and ephemera." - Intro.
This guide should enable you to start your research. If you need further assistance, you can e-mail us, or contact us through mail or phone:
Social Science and History Department
Enoch Pratt Free Library
Central Library/State Library Resource Center
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Telephone: (410) 396-5321
Fax: (410) 396-1413