9 Great Sources for Online History Research

library research

If you want to know more about a topic, it’s best to go right to the source. Want to read the Gutenberg Bible or US Constitution, learn what it was like to live in colonial United States by reading the letters from someone living at that time, or listen to man-on-the-street interviews reacting to the bombing of Pearl Harbor? These nine websites are fantastic places to find for a variety of high-quality sources for primary research.

1. Project Gutenberg

Created by the inventor of ebooks, Michael Hart, the non-profit Project Gutenberg has over 46,000 free ebooks for you to read. All the titles in this collection are in the public domain and available for free download in a variety of formats. Books include classic works of literature, crime and detective stories, history resources, and even historic cookbooks.

2. Hathi Trust Digital Library

A wonderful resource for access to published works that are in the public domain. A partnership of over 90 institutions, Hathi Trust preserves and provides access to millions of documents with the goal of long-term digital preservation. Use Hathi Trust to read literary works, research ancestry and genealogy, access the records of the American Colonies, view documents from the Confederate States of America, read Islamic manuscripts, and so much more.

3. Library of Congress American Memory

The Library of Congress, considered the nation’s national library, is world renowned for its vast collections of resources about the United States. Now you can explore the history and culture of this nation through the over nine million digitized resources available in the Library of Congress American Memory website. With resources on government and law, the environment, history, literature, technology, the Presidents, and more, this website is a great place to find primary source documents on a variety of topics.

4. The Library of Congress: Chronicling America

Read about events in history from the perspective of the people living them. Chronicling America has digitized approximately 100,000 newspaper pages in order to provide online access to historic newspapers from 1836 to 1922. Produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program this searchable database gives you access to newspapers archives throughout the United States.

5. Primary Documents in American History

Do you want quick and easy access to the important documents that shaped the early history of the United States? This Web Guide from the Library of Congress has made it easy for you. Broken down by into three eras that cover 1775-1870, you can click on a period and go to a list of links that give you access to the most important documents of that era.

6. The National Archives

Records, records, and even more records; the National Archives is the nation's record keeper. You can find important historical documents, such as The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights along with speech transcripts, treaties, photos and newsreels, military records, and much more.

7. World Digital Library

For a more international perspective on history, the World Digital Library is a wonderful place to start. This collaboration between the US Library of Congress and the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) allows users to view pictures, books, newspapers, manuscripts maps, journals, and other artifacts that range in date from 8000 BCE to 2010.

8. Women's History Sourcebook

Women have had a huge and often forgotten impact on history. Created by Fordham University as part of the Internet History Sourcebooks Project, this collection of primary and secondary sources looks to correct that issue by providing a list of excellent documents that explore the history of women from around the world.

9. Europeana

Do you want to view paintings of famous artists like Leonardo da Vinci or the sculptures of Michelangelo? Feel like reading the actual writings of Isaac Newton, examining the drawings of Charles Darwin, or listening to speeches by Winston Churchill? Europeana has all of that and much more. Europeana gives you access to some of the best resources on Europe’s history and culture from Europe’s best museums and libraries. So much good stuff is available, but don't worry, Europeana is surprisingly easy to access and search.


Written by Rebecca Nowicki
Rebecca is a Digital Services Librarian with Ashford University


Photo credit: "Städtische Bibliotheken Dresden Ecke Prager Straße - Rechnerpool [email protected]". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Questions? Talk with an Advisor

Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.

Let us help.

Fill out this form to talk with an advisor.

Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.