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HIST11A: Across the Pacific: East Asia in Global Perspective (Hu): Primary Sources

Primary Sources for the History of East Asian and Southeast Asian Countries

Depending on your topic and the time period you are interested in, you will use different types of primary sources: documents, letters, speeches, memoirs, photographs,  literary texts, articles written at the time, etc.  You  also need to find the documents in English translation. The availability of primary sources will depend on the country you choose (there are more sources for China, Japan, and Korea for example in the library ). Fortunately, there are several collections of documents  that have been collated, translated,  and published.  Many others have been digitized and made available on the web.  Below are some examples and some tips on how to find more.  

Empire Online

If your topic relates to colonialism or imperialism, start with the Empire Online database  It includes a collection of primary documents on colonial history, politics, culture, and society. The type od documents includes letters, periodicals, exploration journals, government documents, travel writings, maps, exhibition catalogs, etc.  The collection is organized around five thematic sections introduced by scholars in the field. 

What is a primary source?

Not sure about the difference between primary and secondary sources? Watch this video:

How to Search the Web for More Primary Sources

If you do a Google search, be sure to add the terms "primary sources" or "documents" or "archives" to your search:

For example:  

  • China and cultural revolution and documents
  • Japan and wolrd war II and documents
  • China and women and primary sources

Be careful when you find primary documents on the web.  You need to make sure that the site is a reliable one (university, research project, etc.) and that the source of the document is cited.

Primary Sources on the Web

The sources listed on the right are  examples of what's available in the library.  You can also find many primary sources on the web.  Here are some examples:

Southeast Asia Digital Library
Gateway for all kind of electronic documents on South East Asia (organized by country)

Southeast Asia in the Ming Shi-Lu
Translations of the "Veritable Records of the Ming Dynasty" -1368-1644

Southeast Asian Images and Texts
Historic photographs depicting the history and culture of the Philippines, Cambodia, and Laos

East Asia Image Collections
Digitized photographs, postcards, and slides of imperial Japan (1868-1945), its Asian empire (1895-1945);  and occupied Japan (1947-1952)

North Korea International Documentation Project
Collections include Korean war documents interviews, and documents of the inter-Korean dialogue.

Taiwan Documents Project
150 English-Language documents dealing with the status of Taiwan