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HST209: Gender, Sex and Power in the Modern Middle East: Primary Sources

Spring 2018, M. Hhana

Contemporary Newspapers from the Middle East

Online Collections

More Digital Newspapers

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources...

  • Are original records created at the time an historical event occurred; they may also be written well after-the-fact by participants in the event. (Think of memoirs, autobiographies, or transcriptions of recollections - i.e. oral histories.)
  • Need not focus on a specific event; rather, they may more generally reflect the ideas and values of a particular time period. Examples of these include books on manhood, physical fitness, physical culture, etc.
  • May include personal writings such as letters, diaries, journals, memoirs, and autobiographies (in manuscript or published form). They may also include newspaper articles or editorials, speeches, interviews.
  • May be produced by governments and organizations, for example, the U.S. Agency for International Development, Arab Press Agency, American University in Cairo.
  • Need not be "non-fiction" works - or written works. They may be creative works, such as poems, novels, and plays, as well as photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures, sheet music, etc.

In short, primary sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research. 

Adapted from Primary Sources on the Web: Finding, Evaluating, Using [History Section, Reference and User Services Association, American Library Association, accessed 2/27/17]

For an overview of primary sources available at Smith and in the Five Colleges, consult the Find Primary Sources page.

Published Primary Sources - Books

  • There is an abundance of primary source material in Neilson Library
  • Use secondary literature for leads on primary sources

Five College Library Catalog

Try a KEYWORDS ANYWHERE to find a few relevant titles. Then track through on the Subject(s) listed on individual book descriptions to conduct a more comprehensive subject search.

As you look through lists of subjects, watch for these words as part of the subjects:

  • personal narratives
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • correspondence
  • pamphlets
  • sources

You can also search for these words, for example, iraq and women and (diaries or narratives or correspondence)

Other clues may be buried in the title, authorship, date of publication, etc. See, for example, Huda Shaarawi's Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist.

See examples of primary source compilations below:


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