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Jane Austen's World: Primary Sources

A short research guide for History 487WR-001

Primary Sources

A primary source is a document, recording or other source of information created at the time being studied, by an authoritative source, usually one with direct personal knowledge of the events being described.

Primary sources include diaries, letters, family records, statistics, speeches, interviews, autobiographies, film, government documents, or original scientific research.

Primary sources can be found in Woodruff's Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL).

You can also find many primary source materials via discoverE.

Emory University makes a good deal of primary sources available to students in a digital format. To see the complete list of primary source databases available to students, click here

Below you will find a select list of databases that are particularly appropriate for your coursework. This list is not exhaustive.

An option that I recommend is to use consolidated search options for each of the big companies that provide primary sources online.

Artemis Primary Sources

Artemis will allow you to search the following relevant newspapers and primary source databases at once:

Archive Explorer (Adam Matthew)

Archives Explorer will allow you to search the following journals and primary source databases at once:

Thematic Primary Source Collections


British Online Archives

This series brings together a wealth of collections spanning two centuries of Britain's colonisation, commercial, missionary and even literary relations with Africa and the Americas. It includes materials such as journals, correspondence, official records and personal papers spanning two centuries of Britain's colonial, commercial, missionary and literary relations with Africa , India and the Americas.

Defining Gender, 1450-1910

Defining Gender is a collection of original source materials from British and European archives. Documents from 21 libraries are thematically organized by areas: Conduct and Politeness, Domesticity and the Family, Consumption and Leisure, Education and Sensibility, and The Body.

Empire Online

Primary sources on colonial history, politics, culture and society from 1492 to the 21st century. Thematically divided into sections covering Cultural Contacts, Literature of Empire, the Visible Empire, Religion, Race, Class and Imperialism.

Global Commodities: Trade, Exploration and Cultural Exchange

The Global Commodities database provides primary source materials arranged around fifteen major trade goods from world history such as chocolate, coffee, cotton, and opium. The project touches on themes of exploration and discovery; imperialism and colonialism; trade wars; translocation and economic geography; slavery; taste; and the evolution of global branding. The resource complements and integrates with the Empire Online database.

Grand Tour

The Grand Tour was a rite-of-passage for many aristocratic and wealthy young men of the eighteenth century (1701-1800). This database contains primary source letters; diaries and journals; account books; printed guidebooks; published travel writing; paintings and sketches; architectural drawings and maps that illustrate the everyday issues of transportation, money, communications, food and drink, health and sex, as well as European political and religious life.

India, Raj and Empire

Manuscript Collections from the National Library of Scotland documenting this history from the foundation of the East India Company in 1615 to the granting of independence for India and Pakistan in 1947.

Legacies of British Slave-ownership

This website provides access to a database containing the identity of all slave-owners in the British Caribbean at the time slavery ended in 1833 as well as the Encyclopedia of British Slave-Owners. 

London Lives (1690-1800)

London Lives makes available, in a fully digitised and searchable form, a wide range of primary sources about eighteenth-century London, with a particular focus on plebeian Londoners. This resource includes over 240,000 manuscript and printed pages from eight London archives and is supplemented by fifteen datasets created by other projects. It provides access to historical records containing over 3.35 million name instances. Facilities are provided to allow users to link together records relating to the same individual, and to compile biographies of the best documented individuals.

London Lowlife

London Lowlife is a database of materials focusing on street life in Victorian London, but also has some materials from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The collection includes fast literature, posters, advertising, playbills, ballads, broadsides, penny fiction, cartoons, chapbooks, street cries, Swell’s guides to London prostitution, gambling and drinking dens as well as tourist guides, maps and the manuscripts of George Gissing.

Old Bailey Online - The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913

A fully searchable edition of 197,745 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.

Romanticism: Life, Literature and Landscape

Romanticism: Life, Literature and Landscape provides unique access to rare and priceless literary sources in the form of original documents for the Romantic period.

Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice, 1490-2007

An important portal for slavery and abolition studies, this database brings together documents and collections covering the period 1490-2007 from libraries and archives across the Atlantic world. Subjects include varieties of slavery, the legacy of slavery, the social justice perspective and the continued existence of slavery today.

Stockton Axson Collection of 18th Century British Drama

The Axson Archive is a collection of digitized books drawn from The Stockton Axson Collection of 18th-Century British Drama, held in the Woodson Research Center. Currently, the digital collection consists of 62 items.

Travel Writing, Spectacle and World History

This database contains primary source accounts by women of their travels across the globe from the early 19th century to the late 20th century. Documents span from 1818-1970 and cover topics such as architecture; art; the British Empire; climate; customs; exploration; family life; housing; industry; language; monuments; natural history; politics; race; religion; science; and war.

Voyages: Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database

Description: Provides the most comprehensive source of data on the Atlantic slave trade. Based on the records of almost 35,000 Atlantic slave trade voyages, the database provides information on ships, crew, slave cargo, and routes. Information is supplemented by extensive maps and other resources.

Primary source journal and literature databases

British Periodicals I (1691-1937)

British Periodicals Collection I consists of more than 160 journals that comprise the UMI microfilm collection Early British Periodicals, the equivalent of 5,238 printed volumes containing approximately 3.1 million pages. Topics covered include literature, philosophy, history, science, the fine arts and the social sciences.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online (1701-1800)

Digital images of every page of 150,000 books published during the 18th Century. With full-text searching of approximately 33 million pages, Eighteenth Century Collections Online allows researchers new methods of access to critical information in the fields of history, literature, religion, law, fine arts, science and more.

Eighteenth Century Journals (1685-1815)

This portal to newspapers and periodicals provides full-text access to rare British newspapers and periodicals from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Gerritsen Collection -- Women's History Online (1543-1945)

The greatest single source for the study of women's history in the world, with materials spanning four centuries and fifteen languages.

Google Book Search

Google Book Search provides access to full-text primary sources in the public domain.

Making of Modern Law

Searchable full-text collection of 22,000 treatises on American and British Commonwealth law published between 1800 and 1926.

Making of the Modern World (Goldsmiths'-Kress)

This digitized version of Goldsmiths'-Kress Library of Economic Literature is the most comprehensive collection for researching the literature of economics and business from 1450 to 1850.

Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO)

Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO) is a full-text database of primary sources from the 19th Century, including monographs, newspapers, pamphlets, manuscripts, ephemera, maps, statistics, and more.

Sabin Americana

Sabin Americana 1500-1926 is a fully searchable online collection of books, pamphlets, serials and other works about the Americas, from the time of their discovery to the early 1900s.

HathiTrust Digital Library

HathiTrust is a very large scale collaborative repository of digital content from research libraries including content digitized via the Google Books project and Internet Archive digitization initiatives, as well as content digitized locally by libraries.

Primary Source Microfilm Collections

Britain's Literary Heritage. Nineteenth Century Theatre Periodicals

Call number: MICFILM 3619

This collection contains reproductions of 70 nineteenth century British publications about theater. There is no guide to this collection, but there are individual discoverE records for each publication.

Women advising women

Call number: MICFILM 3546

Online Guide - Contents of Reels

The primary sources in this microfilm collection provide a wealth of material for a broad range of topics. Coverage ranges from 1631-1837. There are 1,151 individual titles available in this collection, including, but not limited to almanacs, broadsides, journals and pamphlets. There is also a set of printed guides available in the microfilm area, call number MICFILM 3546 GUIDE.

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