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New York City History

Primary Sources

A primary source is a source that contains first-hand accounts and/or information about a specific event from the time in which that event occurred.

A primary source can be:

  • correspondence / letters
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • personal narratives
  • pamphlets
  • speeches
  • historical newspapers / accounts from the time an event occurred


A secondary source is a source that is about a specific event but was created after that event has taken place.

A secondary source can be:

  • a book, or article discussing a specific event and/or topic after the fact
  • a book, or article that gives an overview or survey of a specific event or time period
  • biography
  • critique of a particular work and/or event
  • reviews of related studies and/or works

To search for books, articles and more - start with the Quick Search tool:

Through the Library you can access a few primary source collections such as:

Newspaper articles published when an event took place can be considered a primary source:

For more information about primary sources, take a look at our Primary Sources in History Research Guide