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Politics, International Studies & Philosophy: Open Access Primary Sources

Primary sources found free online

The resources listed below are all freely available online. This is only a selection of what is available. If there is anything you would like added to this list please get in touch with Deborah Wilson .

Remember to evaluate content and providers carefully. The proliferation of free primary sources online brings exciting opportunities for student’s research online. Alongside some high quality, valuable resources some are lower quality and should not be used at university level – and some are fake. ​

Protect your academic credibility in three easy steps. If you cannot evaluate a site don’t use it!​

  1. Evaluate quality of free online databases: check the About information. Do the people behind it have academic credentials?​
  2. Check the provenance of primary sources found online. You should be able to find out easily where the original is held.​
  3. Be sure to cite where you accessed your primary source – be transparent!​

​If you need further advice contact your Subject Librarian.​

Have a look at this guide on finding and evaluating free online content

Open Access Platforms

WorldCat: A partnership between OCLC and Europeana has now made millions of open cultural heritage resources easily accessible through WorldCat, the world's most comprehensive database of information about library collections.

Use the Open access filter to find resources from Europeana and other content providers. Go to Advanced Search and click the Open access check box.

Open access collections - across disciplines and international

Ancestry: free index collections. A list of free resources including census, directories and soldiers records across various countries and timelines. Hosted on the Ancestry platform.

British International Research Institutes: digital collections:

  • British Insitiute for the Study of Iraq : Almost all of BISI’s books are available as free downloads and include publications on Iraq’s history, archaeology and languages.
  • British School at Athens : BSA Digital draws together items donated, collected, or excavated by the BSA, its members and partners. These materials, physically located in Greece in the Archive and Library, Fitch Laboratory, Knossos Research Centre, and Museum, are made publicly available here.
  • Society for Libyan Studies - Heritage Gazeteer of Libya: In development, the aim of the Gazetteer is to record, and to provide with Unique Identifiers, locations and monuments within modern Libya which are of significance to the history of the area up to 1950
  • British School at Rome: This collection contains over 28,000 zoomable imagesThe BSR digital collections website was created to present not only photographs but also other types of visual resources from the Library and Archive collections

Europeana : Discover inspiring cultural heritage from over 3500 European museums, libraries and archives in Europe.

Google Books

Hathi Trust : A partnership of academic and research institutions offering collections of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world.

Historical Texts (JISC): Cross-search EEBO, ECCO, UK Medical Heritage Library and 65,000 texts from the British Library C19th collection. Some content is subscriber only - but open access content is available via this link.

Internet Archive : A non-profit digital library offering free universal access to books, movies and music as well as 424 billion archived web pages.

Project Gutenberg : Library of over 60,000 free ebooks, mostly published before 1924.


American history

Bay area archives : California College of the Arts guide to the Bay area archives and archival research.

Calisphere : The history of California in digitised primary sources, including photographs, documents, newspaper pages, political cartoons, works of art, diaries, transcribed oral histories, and advertising

Digital Public Library of America : Launched as an independent organization in 2013, DPLA and it's growing national partner network makes more than 30 million items freely discoverable through a one-stop research experience. Content includes photographs, maps, news footage, oral histories, manuscript documents, artwork, and more.

Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project: The project is working to publish  both digital and print editions of Eleanor Roosevelt's political papers. The five-volume print edition makes the most important papers from ER's post-White House political life available. Volumes I and II, covering 1945 through 1952, are available from the University of Virginia Press.  ERPP online editions document ER's prolific career as a journalist and public speaker. My Day and If You Ask Me are comprehensively reproduced here on our web site, and the ERPP is currently completing a project to publish transcripts from ER's prolific radio and television career.

Franklin - digital collections from the FDR Library and Museum : Digital copies of significant documents and photographs from the archives of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum. FRANKLIN hosts over 800,000 pages of archival documents and 2,500 historical photographs, along with many detailed descriptions of archival collections not yet digitized.

Library of Congress : Digital Collections at the Library of Congress. See also the American Memory list. 


Ruth Fulton Benedict Papers : Approximately 8,000 pages from the Ruth Fulton Benedict Archive (held at the Vassar College Archive) have been digitized, including notes from various field expeditions to the American Southwest in the 1930s. The Ruth Benedict Papers are now freely available to the public via Alexander Street's website.

The Ruth Benedict Papers are fully indexed and cross-searchable with all Alexander Street content, including the fieldwork of her contemporaries such as Bronislaw Malinowski, Margaret Mead and more.

Ruth Benedict made significant contributions to the field in her exploration and examination of the role of individuals in relation to larger societies and cultures, and her integration of analysis of personality and individual agency in cultural description. She published her major work, "Patterns of Culture" in 1934, a comparative work that integrated her own work and others. After WW II, Benedict began studies in Europe among refugees and in the United States among refugees and also among New York neighborhoods, pioneering community action anthropology. She developed the concept of synergy and influenced her student, Abraham Maslow, in his psychological work.

Ancient history

ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World reconstructs the time cost and financial expense associated with a wide range of different types of travel in antiquity. The model is based on a simplified version of the giant network of cities, roads, rivers and sea lanes that framed movement across the Roman Empire. It broadly reflects conditions around 200 CE but also covers a few sites and roads created in late antiquity.

Church sources

Clergy of the Church of England Database (CCEd) : Records of clerical careers from over 50 archives in England and Wales, providing coverage of clerical lives from the Reformation to the mid-nineteenth century

Church of Ireland Gazette: The Representative Church Body Library’s long–term project to digitize and make freely available the complete run of the Church’s all–island newspaper, the Church of Ireland Gazette (in print since 1856), is about to be fulfilled with the addition of the remaining decades from 1950 to 2009 to the existing online search engine. See highlights in Archive of the month

The Killoughter Vestry minute Book : In May 2016, the vestry book was digitised and a digital version of the manuscript covering the period 1813 to 1916 may be accessed online.

National Records of Scotland : Free online access to over one million images from the kirk session records and other church records. In conjunction with Scotland's People geneaological service. 

Historical court and legal sources

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913: A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.

The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft. Online resource for the history of witchcraft and witch-hunting in Scotland. The database contains all people known to have been accused of witchcraft in early modern Scotland and includes information on where and when they were accused, how they were tried, what their fate was, and on a wide range of themes relating to social and cultural history.

Emigration and transportation

Clare, County - Emigration records: primary source material donated to Clare County Library : Passenger lists from various collections detailing emigration to Austrialasia and the USA. Includes assisted emigration and transportation. 

Documenting Ireland: parliament, people and migration (DIPPAM) : DIPPAM is an online virtual archive of documents and sources relating to the history of Ireland and it's migration experience from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. Includes the Irish Emigration Database

Down, County - Gaol Convicts Database : Down County Museum project to gather information on the convicts who had been transported from the County Gaol of Down to the penal colony of New South Wales.

Down, County - Down Convicts Database : This database contains the details of the 1300 + convicts from County Down who were transported to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. 

Female Convicts Research Centre : The Female Convicts Research Centre is a not-for-profit organisation run entirely by volunteers.Its purpose is to encourage research “into the lives and experiences of convict women and their children in Van Diemen’s Land; into the Female Factories through which they passed; and into the staff of the Factories who looked after them and the settlers for whom they worked”.

IMIRCE : IMIRCE provides access to thousands of letters, memoirs and other documents composed by Irish emigrants to North America from the seventeenth through the mid-twentieth centuries.

Irish Australia Transportation Database : Searchable databases of the wide range of records held by the National Archives relating to the transportation of convicts from Ireland to Australia covering the period 1788 to 1868 See here for help on searching the archive. 




Great Britain

BBC Radio Times Archive  Scanned copies of the Radio Times 1923-2009

British Library 19th Century Collection; The collection of 19th-century printed books from the British Library consists of more than 65,000 works and over twenty-five million page images, scanned in full colour, including covers, fly-leaves and printers pages.The collection stretches across topics as diverse as science, literature, politics, travel, art, history, religion, fiction and music.

Cabinet Papers 1915-1980 (National Archives) : Freely available. The National Archive’s Cabinet Papers website provides an online resource of primary source material on the outbreak and events of the first and second world wars, the post-war division of Europe, the creation of the welfare state and the end of empire. The records of Cabinet meetings, chaired by the prime minister, constitute the most valuable single collection of modern British material that can be obtained from official sources. The Cabinet papers include minutes, memoranda and cabinet conclusions and some Cabinet Secretary’s notebooks. This resource is relevant to 20th century British history, politics, war studies and social policy

Connected Histories: British History Sources 1500-1900 : Allows you to cross-search a variety of major e-resources in British history.

Histpop online The Online Historical Population Reports (OHPR) collection provides online access to the complete British population reports for Britain and Ireland from 1801 to 1937. The collection goes far beyond the basic population reports with a wealth of textual and statistical material which provide an in-depth view of the economy, society (through births, deaths and marriages) and medicine during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

National Archives (UK) - Research Guides : Over 5% of The National Archives' records have so far been digitised. Browse this section to find out how to search some of our most popular online collections.

Punch cartoon archive : Archives from the long-running 19th and 20th century satirical British magazine.


1641 Depositions : Fully searchable digital edition of the 1641 Depositions at Trinity College Dublin Library, comprising transcripts and images of all 8,000 depositions, examinations and associated materials in which Protestant men and women of all classes told of their experiences following the outbreak of the rebellion by the Catholic Irish in October, 1641

The Bureau of Military History Collection, 1913-1921 (BMH) : a collection of 1,773 witness statements; 334 sets of contemporary documents; 42 sets of photographs and 13 voice recordings that were collected by the State between 1947 and 1957, in order to gather primary source material for the revolutionary period in Ireland from 1913 to 1921. 

The Conlon Collection (Cork Public Museum): This collection relates to  the Cumann na mBan in Cork, and the role played by two sisters Lil and May Conlon. The  archive contains over 5,000 items including photographs, letters, pamphlets and newspaper clippings, gives an extraordinary insight into the role of the women's republican paramilitary organisation during tumultuous times in the country's history, especially during the Civil War.

Digital Repository of Ireland: The Digital Repository of Ireland is a national digital repository for Ireland’s humanities, social sciences, and cultural heritage data. You can browse and search across multiple collections from some of the finest Irish institutions. Using Digital Archives for Academic Research is a booklet put together for a webinar series hosted by the DRI in Spring 2021. The aim of the booklet is to showcase some of the collections in DRI, DRI’s member institutions, and other online resources.

Dublin City Library and Archives: list of available online collections.

Dublin Gazette : Assembled via the Beyond 2022 Project. 

Histpop online The Online Historical Population Reports (OHPR) collection provides online access to the complete British population reports for Britain and Ireland from 1801 to 1937. The collection goes far beyond the basic population reports with a wealth of textual and statistical material which provide an in-depth view of the economy, society (through births, deaths and marriages) and medicine during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Histpop via NISRA: All Ireland censuses (pre-1921)

The Inspiring Ireland Project - National Museum of Ireland: A selection of cultural heritage objects from the National Museum of Ireland presented as part of the Inspiring Ireland project. The collection includes clothing, sculpture, pottery and other objects from around Ireland, covering both the unique and the everyday. These items offer a valuable insight into the history and social life of Ireland from the 8th to the 20th century.

Irish Genealogical Research Society - Early Irish Marriage Index : This Index seeks to provide pointers to the many alternative sources beyond parish registers and civil registration records. Only marriages within Ireland are shown, except where it is fairly evident that the couple, while marrying abroad, will be spending their married life in Ireland. No marriages from 1864 onwards are shown, as full Civil Registration is available from that date.

National Archives (Ireland) - Research Guides and Sources : These guides are designed to give a brief overview and to place the collections in their historical context. They are also useful for understanding the types of records researchers will find and the potential research value they hold.

RDS Digital Library & Archives : The RDS Library & Archives collections hold a wealth of material dating back to 1784 related to the social, cultural and economic history of Ireland and are available to browse here. This site is a living database to which we will be adding new content as it becomes available.

Sources for Irish Women's History: This website is an updated version of the original Women's History Project survey (1997-99) and includes updated material with checks and revisions included. The update has resulted in this website which contains 20,790 records and 2,413 collections from 221 repositories around the country.

Ulster Settlers: The Ulster Settlers Database is a digital humanities (DH) research project that offers a new research tool for the study of seventeenth-century Ulster and its inhabitants. The main aim of phase 1 of the project was to establish a user-friendly database populated with as many of the Ulster settler population as possible covering the period c.1609-1641. This has brought together and combined a wide selection of sources ranging from military musters and plantation grants to judicial records and secondary literature. This provides a solid foundation from which the database can be expanded to include new sources such as Ulster's plantation maps and the 1641 Depositions. 

Irish LGBTQ history

Ceilte: Mapping LGBT Heritage in Ireland

Cork LGBT Archive, @CorkLGBThistory.

Irish Queer Archive, @IrishQueerArchive, National Library of Ireland.

Irish Trans Archive , @ITransArchive.

Gay News Archive Project, @gaynewsarchive.

Christopher Robson Photographic Collection, National Library of Ireland.

Gay publications (NLI)


For an extensive, and growing list of resources for Irish LGBTQ (including secondary literature and links to physical archives) follow this link for access to Patrick McDonagh's (@patmcdonagh) list of recommended sites

Northern Ireland

ARK (Access, Research, Knowledge) : Information on Northern Ireland

CAIN (Northern Ireland conflict)

BBC Northern Ireland Archive. Includes BBC Rewind (more than 13,000 clips from two decades of Northern Ireland broadcasting) and other snapshots from Northern Ireland life recorded by the BBC over the years.

Registrar General Historical Reports : Births, deaths and marriages in Northern Ireland 1921- .


Old Maps Online : Online search gateway to historical maps in libraries around the world.

Medical history

UK Medical Heritage Library (UKMHL) : the culmination of a three-year project between Jisc, the Internet Archive, the Wellcome Library and nine other partner institutions to digitise more than 15 million pages in over 66,000 works. The Wellcome Library have provided their entire 19th Century collection, while the other participating libraries have contributed selections from their special collections, to encompass a broad and diverse range of relevant publications from the period.

History of slavery

Transatlantic Slave Trade Database : Information on almost 35,000 slaving voyages, providing information about vessels, enslaved peoples, slave traders and owners, and trading routes.

Soviet history

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History : Multi-media archive of primary sources designed to introduce students and the general public to the richness and contradictions of Soviet history. Archive accessible by theme or year. Includes subject essays, images, video clips, music and primary texts. 

War and propaganda

Ancestry: free index collections. A list of free resources including census, directories and soldiers records across various countries and timelines. Hosted on the Ancestry platform.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission : Includes archive of letters and photographs sent to families during WW1

The Great Irish War Dead : A work in progress by Military Historian Tom Burnell (author of ‘The War Dead’ series and ‘Irishmen in the Great War’). So far the details of servicemen from the counties representing the Republic of Ireland have been completed, in so far as the information is known. Work continues to record the names of the Great War dead from the six counties in Northern Ireland.

World War I Document Archive (Brigham Young University)

Great War Archive and the First World War Poetry Archive (University of Oxford)

Cold War International History Project (Wilson Center)

War movies and war propaganda (Berkeley)

Propaganda (University of Washington)

German propaganda archive

Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945 - 1 October 1946 (Library of Congress) : 42-volume series, also known as "The Blue Series" - official record of the trial of the major civilian and military leaders of Nazi Germany who were accused of war crimes

Screenonline : From the British Film Institute (BFI): see the section under Film - Genres and themes - War for material on war and cinema

Wilson Centre Digital Archive : Cold War Era documents

Women's history

Flicr: The Women's Library Collection: This album consists of various items from The Women's Library collection. It draws on material digitised for the Women's Library timeline where you will find further resources, detailed descriptions and access to some full text books.

Mapping Women's suffrage: The project brings together the latest research and materials from academics, local history enthusiasts, family researchers, archivists and the public, to reveal and share on the map the often-hidden lives and locations of ordinary Votes for Women campaigners - at the same time building an unprecedented picture of the shape and geographies of the suffrage movement across the country at this momentous period in women’s history.

Sources for Irish Women's History: This website is an updated version of the original Women's History Project survey (1997-99) and includes updated material with checks and revisions included. The update has resulted in this website which contains 20,790 records and 2,413 collections from 221 repositories around the country.

Women's Suffrage Collection (LSE): A collection of newspapers, journals, pamphlets, leaflets and annual reports of different groups covering women's campaigns from the late 19th century until the 1930s.