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Primary sources

A vast array of primary source material is available via the Library, online and in local archives.

Online collections

The following primary source collections can be accessed online. Some are freely accessible to all whilst others are only available to University of Bristol students and staff.

The collections are listed below by the following geographical regions and sub-divided by period:

  • General resources
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Australasia
  • Britain and Ireland
  • Continental Europe
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • North America.
General resources

General online resource collections with wide global and historical scope.

Britain and Ireland
Continental Europe
Latin America and the Caribbean
North America

Special Collections

The University's Special Collections encompass a wide range of material from different time periods and on numerous subjects.

Some material can be viewed online and you can consult physical items by appointment in the Special Collections Reading Room on the first floor of the Arts and Social Sciences Library.

Local archives

The following archive collections are based in Bristol and the South West region.

Special Collections

Special Collections

Special Collections

The University of Bristol's Special Collections contain a vast and diverse range of materials dating from the 11th century to the present day.

Guides to using primary sources

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Going to the Sources

Shows how to identify, find, and evaluate both primary and secondary sources for your own writing assignments.

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The Information-Literate Historian

Guidance on how to successfully select and use sources - primary, secondary, and electronic - to carry out and present your research.

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Historical Research

Practical guide covering the various stages of a history research project, from the selection of the topic and the organization and interpretation of source material, through to the completion of the written-up record.

Database research tutorial

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A self-help tutorial on effective research with databases.

Finding primary sources

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This guide to finding primary sources will show you where and how to find primary sources online and in print.

Finding and using archives in the UK

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Our Introduction to finding and using archives in the UK guide provides further information about using UK archives for your research.

Featured resources

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Arcadian Library Online

The Arcadian Library Online is a unique collection of material relating to the shared history of the Middle East and the West. Material includes books of travellers' observations and artists' images, scientists' and physicians' knowledge, literary, scholarly and historical writings.

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China: Trade, Politics and Culture, 1793-1980

China: Trade, Politics and Culture, 1793-1980 is a collection of sources from the School of Oriental and African Studies and the British Library. With documents encompassing events from the earliest English embassy to the birth and early years of the People’s Republic, this resource collects sources from nine archives to give an incredible insight into the changes in China during this period.

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Chatham House Online Archive

Chatham House Online Archive contains the publications and archives of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), the world-leading independent international affairs policy institute founded in 1920 following the Paris Peace Conference. The Institute's analysis and research, as well as debates and speeches it has hosted, can be found in this online archive, subject-indexed and fully searchable.