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Digital primary sources

A guide to major, comprehensive digital collections of books, newspapers, maps, archives and ephemera, organised by subject.

One of 15 million articles from Welsh Newspapers Online.
One of 15 million articles from Welsh Newspapers Online.

Free resources

Archives Hub. Search across descriptions of archives, both physical and digital, held at over 350 institutions across the UK. Archive catalogues from Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives can be accessed here.

British Library. Manuscripts, rare books and maps from the British Library’s collections.

Digital.Bodleian. Books, manuscripts, ephemera, maps, music and prints from University of Oxford collections.

Digital Public Library of America. Over 36 million images, texts, videos, and sounds from across the United States.

Europeana. Over 50 million digitised items – books, music, artworks and more – with sophisticated search and filter tools. Dedicated thematic collections on artfashionmusicphotography and World War I, including galleriesblogs and exhibitions.

Gallica. Digital library of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BnF). Printed materials (books, journals, newspapers, music), graphic materials (engravings, maps, photographs), manuscripts and sound recordings.

Google Arts and Culture. Artwork, photographs and manuscripts from cultural institutions all over the world, which can be filtered by theme, medium, movement, place, and historical events and figures.

Harvard Digital Collections. Over 6 million objects from Harvard Library collections - from ancient art to modern manuscripts and audio-visual materials.

Hathi Trust. A not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries preserving 17 million books. Due to differences in international copyright laws, access outside the USA is generally only available to pre-1880 works.

Illustration Archive. Over 1 million book illustrations from the British Library's collections. The images span the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, cover a variety of reproductive techniques (including etching, wood engraving, lithography and photography), and are taken from around 68,000 works of literature, history, geography and philosophy.

Internet Archive. A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more. Content from Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives can be accessed here.

John Johnson collection of printed ephemera. Advertisements, handbills, playbills and programmes, menus, greetings cards, posters, and postcards offering insights into the changing nature of everyday life in Britain in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

Library of Congress. Books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, audio and video from the largest library in the world.

Morgan Library and Museum. Digitised art, music and manuscripts from the medieval period onwards.

Munich DigitiZation Centre (MDZ). Nearly 1 million books, manuscripts, maps and newspapers from one of the largest and fastest growing digital collections in Germany.

National Library of Scotland. A digital gallery hosts books, manuscripts, photographs, maps and music, while a moving image catalogue provides access to films reflecting Scotland's history and culture.

New York Public Library. Nearly 1 million prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts and videos.

Project Gutenburg. The oldest digital library, hosting 60,000 out of copyright e-books.

Smithsonian Learning Lab. Millions of Smithsonian digital images, recordings, texts, and videos in history, art and culture, and the sciences. Thousands of examples of resources organised and structured for teaching and learning by educators and subject experts.

British History Online. Digital library of key printed primary and secondary sources for the history of Britain and Ireland, with a primary focus on the period between 1300 and 1800. We aim to support the learning, teaching and research of our users from around the world.

Casebook: Jack the Ripper. Complete transcriptions of 6,000 contemporary newspaper articles which covered the Whitechapel murders, categorised by newspaper and by author.

Survey of Scottish Witchcraft. Comprehensive database of Scottish witchcraft cases.

British Fiction, 1800-1829 a database of production, circulation & reception. Bibliographical records of 2,272 works of fiction written by approximately 900 authors, along with contemporary materials (including anecdotal records, circulating-library catalogues, newspaper advertisements, reviews, and subscription lists).

Database of mid-Victorian wood engraved illustrations. Records and images of literary illustrations published in or around 1862.

European Sources Online. Information about the institutions, structures, countries, regions, peoples, policies and processes of the European Union and the wider Europe. Includes articles from newspapers and journals, speeches and documents.

United Nations Digital Library. A single access point to UN information, current and historical, including, votes, speeches, public domain publications and more. UN publications and documentation indexed by the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library and the Library of the UN Office at Geneva.

United Nations Treaty Collection. Official database of the United Nations and includes full text of over 150,000 bilateral and multilateral treaties; the status of over 500 major multilateral treaties deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations; the League of Nations Treaty Series (1920-1944).

Medical Heritage Library. Access to over 45,000 books, journals, pamphlets and films relating to the history of medicine, with contributions from the Wellcome Library, the National Library of Medicine, and the New York Academy of Medicine.

Wellcome. Thousands of digital books, artworks, photos and museum objects relating to the history of health and medicine.

Women in Natural History. Selected works from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, created by women who made direct contributions to the study of Botany and Zoology either by way of authoring or editing works on the subject or by providing critical illustrations to support works authored by someone else.

People's Collection Wales. Photographs, recordings and documents that hold stories about Wales and its people.

Coflein. Catalogue of archaeology, buildings, industrial and maritime heritage in Wales, maintained by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW). The database can be searched by individual site, site type, geographic area or time period, as well as by free-text searches or geographically through a mapping system.

Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Over five thousand concise biographies of individuals who have made a significant contribution to national life, whether in Wales or more widely.

Early tourists in Wales. Classified extracts from over 1,500 published and manuscript accounts of tours of and guidebooks to Wales, 1700-1900.

Historic Wales. A map-enabled portal for historic environment information in Wales. Search hundreds of thousands of records of Welsh archaeology, buildings and artefacts. 

Journey to the Past. Sources on Wales in historic travel writing from France and Germany, including diaries, letters, books, magazines and novels. 

National Library of Wales. Digitised manuscripts, archives, printed material, pictures, maps, photographs, and thematic digital projects such as Crime and Punishment 1730-1830 and Welsh Ballads Online. Freely reusable images from the Library’s collections can be accessed on Wikicommons.

National Museum of Wales: St Fagans. Art collections, objects, oral recordings and transcripts relating to Welsh folk history.

Welsh Journals. Search and access journals relating to Wales published between 1735-2007. Titles range from academic and scientific publications to literary and popular magazines.

Welsh Newspapers Online. Search and access over 1,100,000 pages from nearly 120 newspaper publications, generally up to 1910.

Welsh Tithe Maps. Search and browse over 300,000 entries and their accompanying apportionment documents using original and present-day maps.

Licensed resources

The following databases of digital content are available to Cardiff University staff and students, via LibrarySearch.

Defining Gender, 1450-1910 five centuries of advice literature online. Over 100 full-text books dated between 1450 and 1910, covering the issues of 'conduct and politeness' in gender studies. Also included are editorial essays on this topic, biographies of people mentioned, and a chronology of key events relating to gender issues for the period 1450 to 1910.

Orlando: women's writing in the British Isles from the beginnings to the present. History of women's writing, primarily focused upon the British Isles, with biographical entries, from 8th century AD to the present.

Women and Social Movements: International 1840 to present. A digital archive originally based on the idea of creating an online archive of primary sources generated by women's international activism, 1840 to the present. It includes conference proceedings, reports of international women's organizations, publications and web pages of women's non-governmental organizations, and letters, diaries, and memoirs of women active internationally since the mid-nineteenth century. It also includes photographs and videos of major events and activists in the history of women's international social movements.

Early English Books Online. Digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America from 1473-1700 - from the first book printed in English by William Caxton, through the age of Shakespeare and the English Civil War.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Over 180,000 fully searchable texts, published between 1701 and 1800. This includes every significant text printed in the United Kingdom, both in English and in other languages, as well as thousands of works from the Americas. Coverage includes not only books, but broadsides, tracts, sermons and ephemera. In English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Latin, Spanish, Welsh, and others.

International Medieval Bibliography. Indexes articles on medieval subjects in journals, Festschriften, conference proceedings, and collected essays. Covers all aspects of medieval studies within the period 450 to 1500 for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Citations classified by date, subject and location. Access restricted to subscribing institutions.

Jisc Historical Texts. Full text digital archive enabling you to cross search, view and download over 460,000 texts published in the late C15th to the long C19th from four key collections: Early English Books Online (EEBO) (1473-1700); Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) (1701-1800); British Library 19th Century texts (BL) (1789-1914); UK Medical Heritage Library (UKMHL) (1800s-1900s).

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Over 60,000 biographies, 72 million words, 11,000 portraits of significant, influential or notorious figures who shaped British history.

SAGE research methods videos. Tutorials, interviews, video case studies, and mini-documentaries covering the entire research process, and hundreds of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods.

African Diaspora 1860 - present. Discover the migrations, communities, and ideologies of the African Diaspora through the voices of people of African descent.

Bibliography of British and Irish History. Bibliographic data on historical writing dealing with the British Isles, and with the British Empire and Commonwealth, during all periods for which written documentation is available - from 55BC to the present.

English Historical Documents. The most comprehensive, annotated collection of primary source documents on British history ever compiled, covering the years 500 -1914, plus American history to 1776.

LGBT Thought and Culture. Books, periodicals, and archival materials documenting LGBT political, social and cultural movements throughout the twentieth century and into the present day. The collection includes documents ranging from letters, speeches, interviews, and ephemera covering the political evolution of gay rights as well as memoirs, biographies, poetry, letters and works of fiction that illuminate the lives of lesbians, gays, transgendered, and bisexual individuals and the community.

Manchester Medieval Sources Online. Contains hundreds of pages of original medieval history documents compiled for the study and teaching of this historical period. Includes many documents translated into English for the first time. It also provides access to Medievalportal, a gateway to medieval resources covering topics such as The Black Death, Women in Medieval Europe, The Crusades, etc.

Mass Observation Online, 1937-1950. A social research organisation which collected diaries and surveys written by volunteers, and produced summary reports of their findings. The archive documents everyday people's views on a range of issues, including consumer goods, crime, education, entertainment, family, health, housing, income, marriage, morale, news, propaganda, women, and work. 

Medieval and Early Modern Sources Online. A collection of digitised editions of texts concerning economic, political, legal, and ecclesiastical history, such as treasury accounts, chronicles, papal registers, etc. Most are from England, Ireland, and Scotland, although some are from Milan, Spain and the New World.

Migration to New Worlds. A collection of unique primary source material exploring the movement of people from Great Britain, Ireland, Europe and Asia to the New World and Australasia (1800-1924).

Oxford Bibliographies Online: Atlantic History. Authoritative research guides to current scholarship with original commentary and annotations.

Linguistics and Language Behaviour Abstracts. Indexes articles, books and book reviews on all aspects of language study and on related disciplines such as anthropology, psychology and stylistics. Coverage is from 1973 onwards.

Modern Languages Association: International Bibliography. Catalogue of over 2.7 million books on literature, literary theory, dramatic arts, folklore, language, linguistics, pedagogy, rhetoric and composition, and the history of printing and publishing.

Romanticism. This digital collection, which includes the manuscript collections of the Wordsworth Trust, offers students and researchers of the Romantic period unique access to the working notebooks, verse manuscripts and correspondence of William Wordsworth and his fellow writers.

Shakespeare in Performance. Features the world-famous prompt book collection at the Folger Shakespeare Library. These prompt books tell the story of Shakespeare’s plays as they were performed in theatres throughout Great Britain, the United States and internationally, between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries.

Historic Digimap. Digital scans of OS paper map sheets including: all available County Series maps at 1:2,500 and 1:10560 scales published between 1843 and 1939; and all available National Grid maps at 1:1,250, 1:2,500 and 1:10560/10,000 scales published from 1945 and before the introduction of the Ordnance Survey's digital Land-Line product.

British Library Newspapers: 1732-1950. Over 20 million searchable pages, from more than 700 newspaper titles from UK and Ireland. 

Daily Mail Historical Archive 1896-2004. Full-text articles and images from the Daily Mail (1896-2004) and the Daily Mail Atlantic edition (1923-1931). Includes essays on the Daily Mail.

Daily Mirror Digital Archive. Fully searchable digital archive of the Daily Mirror from 1903 to the present.

Illustrated London News Online. Full coverage (1842-2003) of the world's first illustrated weekly newspaper. Includes over 260,000 pages, the archive gives a vivid picture of both British and world events, spanning wars, disasters, royalty, social affairs, arts and science

Nexis UK. A comprehensive newspaper database, updated daily, providing full text access to all UK national newspapers, plus regional newspapers, international news providers (including The International Herald Tribune, The New Yorker, USA Today, India Today and the Japan Times) and a number of trade journals and magazines. Most titles have a twenty-year archive.

Times Digital Archive. Full-text facsimile of more than 200 years of The Times, with every page of every issue from 1785 to 2014.