8 Helpful Primary Source Websites for Teaching World History


8 Helpful Primary Source Websites for Teaching World History

Looking to move beyond the outdated social studies textbook? Using primary sources in your World History class provides so many possibilities for analysis and critical thinking. But finding sources can be time-consuming. Below you'll find a list of 8 helpful websites for pulling primary sources.


Primary Sources:

All of our information about past events are derived from some kind of evidence. This evidence is called a source. Firsthand sources are what we call primary sources. Examples might be photographs, journal entries, or cultural objects. There are times when we can find several reliable sources for an event.


Secondary Sources:

Secondhand knowledge or secondary sources can come from reading a textbook, article, dramas, or storytelling, but there can be inaccuracies. If you've ever played the game of telephone, you know that as information gets passed on from the original source it becomes less trustworthy.


Helpful Primary Source Websites for World History:


1. Facing History and Ourselves

Facing History is focused on fostering empathy and reflection, and building safe and inclusive schools. Lots of great primary sources, best practice, and lessons on this site.


2. Echoes & Reflections

If you are teaching the Holocaust, this website offers helpful best practice, lesson plans, and primary sources.


3. Smithsonian Folkways

A great resource for studying world cultures through music.


4. Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Over 500,000 cultural objects have been digitized from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston collection. Check out the extensive collections from around the world.


5. International Slavery Museum

Search the extensive collections from around the world that have been digitized.

6. Smithsonian Learning Lab

Millions of digital images, recordings, texts, and videos in history, art and culture, and the sciences


7. Fordham University Sourcebooks

This site contains full-text sourcebooks for most eras and periods in history


8. National Geographic Resource Library

Search digitized collections by grade level, content, or subject


Having our students examine primary sources is a powerful way to teach history. I suggest grabbing a copy of the Historical Thinking Chart from Stanford History Education Group (just need a free account). This is a helpful chart of questions that provides an opportunity for students to critically analyze sources.


Have other primary source websites that are helpful? I'd love to know. Comment below.


Teach U.S. History too? Check out this blog:

8 Helpful Primary Source Websites for Teaching American History