Browse Primary Sources

Locate primary sources, including images, objects, media, and texts. Annotations by scholars contextualize sources.

Red-brown textile with a looping tendril pattern

Indian textile fragment, 14th-15th century

This block-printed, cotton textile fragment, found in Old Cairo, Egypt, was made in Gujarat, India. It features a repeated stylized tendril pattern made by stamping red-brown dye on the cloth in vertical sections.

Porcelain tankard with blue ornate decorations

Porcelain tankard, fifteenth century China

This Ming dynasty porcelain tankard incorporates some Chinese elements, such as the peony flower design on the body and the dragon-shaped handle. Its shape was not Chinese, however, but based on Islamic metalwork, which indicates it was made for export.

Ottoman Decree Regarding Protestants, 1850

This imperial decree, or firman, was translated from Ottoman Turkish to English by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

Cartoon about the Ottoman Empire

This cartoon appeared in the popular British magazine Punch on September 15, 1853. In it, France is personified based on the mustachioed Emperor Napoleon III, and Britain appears as the symbolic figure John Bull. They confer at the apparent deathbed of Abdulmecid I, the Sultan of Ottoman Empire, popularly referred to as Turkey.

Cast of the Hand of Brazilian Emperor Pedro II

Brazilian Emperor Pedro II ruled from 1831 – 1889. He was the last emperor in power before Brazil became a republic. This image captures two bronze hand molds taken of Pedro II’s right hand in the early nineteenth century. The one on the left was taken by Marc Ferrez, and the one on the right was created by Antonio Joaquim de Azevedo. Both feature a ring that Pedro II wore on his index finger.

Ark (Wooden Chest with Iron Locks)

This heavy wooden chest served a crucial purpose for municipal officials of Buenos Aires in the eighteenth century: it stored their documents. Until the early nineteenth century, the Spanish Crown ruled over much of South America, including Buenos Aires. Because their empire was so vast, and travel in between the territories took several months, accurate record-keeping was essential.

Fourteenth-Century Chinese Dragon

This Chinese animal figure belongs to the rich collections of the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo in Buenos Aires. Depicting a dragon, the piece dates back to the fourteenth century. It stands in the dining room of a lavishly decorated mansion that once belonged to the family of Matías Errazúriz and Josefina de Alvea.

Hand drawn map showing footpaths and a branching stream running through the town

Pueblo of Texupa

This is a copy of a relación geográfica. These relaciones were answers to a 1577 survey sent by King Philip II to his colonies, and each relación was composed of a map, usually drawn by an Indigenous artist, and a written text based on interviews often given by Indigenous informants to Spanish officials.

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The Miracles of Sainte Foy

In 1013, Bernard of Angers visited the relics of Sainte Foy at the abbey of Conques, in southern France. Initially skeptical of the cult which had formed around this little girl martyr, Bernard nonetheless fell under her spell.

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On Diverse Arts (De diversis artibus)

Theophilus’ De diversis artibus is the only complete treatise on art to survive from the High Middle Ages. Written under the pseudonym Theophilus, who seems to have been a Benedictine monk of the early twelfth century, it describes techniques of painting, stained glass, and metalwork, introducing each with a prologue deep in religious significance.

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Bernard of Clairvaux's Apologia

Bernard of Clairvaux was abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux, in Burgundy, France, and a well-known preacher who travelled widely and was involved with many of the most pressing issues of his day, from papal power to the Crusades.

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On What Was Done In His Administration (De administratione), 1144–1148

In the later 1140s, Abbot Suger of the Royal Abbey of Saint Denis, outside Paris, wrote an account of his extensive project to rebuild and redecorate his abbey church. Suger’s church, and particularly the upper choir, which he describes here, was innovative for its Gothic style vaulting, and his text is one of the most extensive accounts of such a building program to survive from the period.

A drawing shows the continent of South American with South at the top.

America Invertida (Inverted America)

We generally expect maps to convey the location of oceans and land masses accurately. But why do almost all maps and globes position North at the top and South at the bottom, when there is no up or down orientation of the universe?

Cecil Rhodes statue removal, Cape Town University, South Africa

Cecil Rhodes monument removal, Cape Town, South Africa

The bronze statue of a seated Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), on the campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT), was sculpted by Marion Walgate, one of the first white female sculptors in South Africa.

Cecil Rhodes monument, Cape Town University, South Africa

Cecil Rhodes monument, Cape Town, South Africa

The bronze statue of a seated Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), on the campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT), was sculpted by Marion Walgate, one of the first white female sculptors in South Africa. Walgate had earlier made a bust of Rhodes, a mining magnate and arch advocate of British imperialism, for the colonial government of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Removal of Christopher Columbus statue near the Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Christopher Columbus monument removal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Monument to Christopher Columbus (1451?-1506), located in a plaza in front of the Casa Rosada government palace, was inaugurated in 1921.

Christopher Columbus statue near the Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Christopher Columbus monument, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Monument to Christopher Columbus (1451?-1506), located in a plaza in front of the Casa Rosada government palace, was inaugurated in 1921. It was a gift from the Italian-Argentinian community in response to a solicitation for proposals by a government commission in 1910 to commemorate independence from Spain, although the centennial emphasized Argentina’s European heritage.

Removal of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson monument, Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia

Stonewall Jackson monument removal, Richmond, Virginia, United States

The Stonewall Jackson Monument in Richmond, Virginia was erected in 1919 to honor Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson (1824-1863), a Confederate general.

Bronze monument of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia

Stonewall Jackson monument, Richmond, Virginia, United States

The Stonewall Jackson Monument in Richmond, Virginia, was erected in 1919 to honor Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson (1824-1863), a Confederate general. Jackson, a former instructor at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), gained prominence, and his nickname, for leading a Confederate victory at the 1861 First Battle of Bull Run, Virginia. Jackson owned six slaves at the time of the war.

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Excerpt from letter by Lady Mary Wortley

Travel writing by women can reveal a number of themes in world history. One useful example are the letters written by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1786) who worked as a missionary in Turkey.