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South Asian History

Research guide for sources in South Asian history

Primary Sources

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are original documents and objects created at the time being studies, such as diaries, newspaper accounts, letters, governmental records, or drawings. Any record that documents a past event can be considered a primary source.

Where can I find primary sources? 

You can find primary sources in libraries, museums, and archives, including McGill's Rare Books and Special Collections Library (located on the 4th floor of the McLennan Library building). You can also find digitized primary sources online in library databases, such as those linked below, as well as in digitized collections, such as McGill's Digital Exhibitions & Collections, some of which are linked below.

You can also find primary sources in print and eBooks through the library. Historians and other scholars often bring together (and, when necessary, translate) primary sources in collections called sourcebooks (sometimes spelled source books), readers, or anthologies. You can systematically search for these in the Library Catalogue by using subject headings. Try combining keywords on your topic with the word sources (which demarcate primary sources) in a subject heading search. For example:

  • su: women India 19th century sources
  • su: Bangladesh history sources
  • su: Pakistan 20th century history sources

General & Thematic Digital Collections

Colonial Governance

Missionary Documents

Newspapers & Media

Digital Libraries

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