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History: Primary Sources

Capture of the flotilla Garibaldi gaining the shore with Annita (painting by John James Story)Painting: Capture of the flotilla Garibaldi gaining the shore with Annita by John James Story 

Primary sources are original sources of information, typically created at the time of the events or individual being researched. Primary sources can be:

  • Laws and Parliamentary Debates (Hansard)
  • Newspaper reports, by reporters who witnessed an event or who quote people who did
  • Speeches, diaries, letters and interviews - what the people involved said or wrote
  • Photographs, video, or audio that capture an event
  • Art, political cartoons, or literature from the time period
  • Census data or economic statistics
  • Original research

Secondary Sources add a layer of interpretation and analysis to primary sources, and are usually written after the time period being examined.

Primary Source Databases and Websites


   Aotearoa New Zealand

   Australia & Pacific



University of Otago Databases


Near & Middle East



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