Browse Primary Sources

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

Small figure carved in jade

Maya Deity-Face Jade Pendant, 7th-8th century

This small carved jade ornament, about 2 inches square, was most likely the central ornament on the paper headband of a Maya ruler. Kings received the paper headband during the ritual in which they became king, signifying the moment in which they were “wrapped” into the office of kingship, transitioning from human mortal into divine king.

Object with seated individual carved into it

Maya Drinking Vessel with Seated Lord, 7th-8th century

This large ceramic vessel, made for drinking chocolate, shows a figure wearing a loincloth, necklace, and a large headdress that looks like the tail feathers of the quetzal bird.

Cup inscribed with a figure holding a ceremonial ax in one hand.

Maya Vase with Mythological Scene, 7th-8th century

This drinking cup shows the aging Rain God Chank with a ceremonial ax in one hand and the other on a building that has split open. Other figures on the cup may represent the Maize God, who the Rain God is bringing back to life by breaking open the building’s roof, although the mythic scene is difficult to interpret.

Broken fragment of stone monument with glyphs carved into it.

Maya Monument with glyphs, 4th-9th centuries

This stone monument carved with glyphs comes from Tortuguero, a Maya archeological site in southernmost Tabasco, Mexico that has been badly damaged by development. The monument is in a museum in Tabasco, and the smaller fragment is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

Text of statement. Transcription at link.

Economic Declaration of Nonaligned Countries

This document is part of the economic declaration of the Fourth Nonaligned Movement (NAM) conference in 1973 in Algiers, Algeria.

Text of speech. Transcription at link.

"The Problems of Third World Development"

The text is an excerpt from the 1974 Houari Boumédiène’s speech to the 6

Two photos of men wearing western suits with number 8 and 9 under their photo

Chinese Migrants to U.S. by way of Mexico

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the United States passed laws that barred the entry of Chin

Photo shows strips of red cloth hanging from a cave ceiling

Mijikenda textiles

Words are historical artifacts which can be analyzed as evidence much like written documents or material records.

Poster with text "We can stop X"

"We can stop this Makapuu madness!"

After World War II, the rise of jet travel and mass tourism brought new visitors—and new pressures—to many places within the Pacific Ocean. Hawaiʻi is a prime example of how tourism-driven development and activist responses have shaped local environments.

Photo of a man carrying some debris from a tunnel

Heading of east portal Tunnel No. 8

In the late nineteenth century, multiple transcontinental railroads were built across the United States and Canada.

Chart with curved sticks emanating from pebbles on either side

Marshall Islands stick chart

Across millennia, Pacific people voyaged out to sea and settled the ocean’s thousands islands and atolls, linking new disco

Photograph of a factory or plant with a "Coca Cola" sign

Coca Cola Overseas

Multinational corporations do not usually have archives. And even when they do, these are seldom accessible.

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Policy Statement of the Federal Military Government Issued by Nigerian Embassies Abroad, 1966

In 1966, Nigeria was only a few years removed from colonial status. Nigeria as a unified political and economic entity had only been established in 1914 with the merger of the very different regions of northern and southern Nigeria.

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Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 1994

Established in November of 1994 by Resolution 955 of the United Nations Security Council, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was intended to try those responsible from the Rwandan genocide ethnic Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu and other Rwandan violations of international law from January 1st to December 31st of 1994.

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Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Established by United Nations resolution 827 of May 25th, 1993, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was a body with the purpose of prosecuting war crimes committed during the Yugoslav Wars and had jurisdiction over four groups of criminal activity committed since January 1st, 1991: serious breaches of the Geneva Conventions, violations of the laws of war, genoci

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Excerpt from the Kellogg-Briand Pact, 1928

Also known as the Pact of Paris, the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 was an international agreement sponsored by the United States and France aimed to eliminate war as a means of conflict resolution on the international playing field following World War I.

a map of the western hemisphere showing the united states in white. A red bullseye target centered on Cuba shows the range of various nuclear missiles with the outer rings reaching as far as Northern Canada.

Map of the Range of Nuclear Missiles in Cuba, 1962

Marking one of the most dangerous periods of the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis began on October 16, 1962, when U.S. national security advisors alerted President John F. Kennedy that a Soviet missile base was under construction in Cuba.

The title page of the Quebec Order, titled Order of the Governor in Council of the 7th july 1796 for the regulation of commerce between this province and the United States of America

Quebec Order, 7 July 1796

Only a few years after the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788 and following the peace treaty signed between the U.S. and the British in 1794, the Governor in Council of British-controlled Lower-Canada, Guy Carleton, passed an act meant to regulate commerce between the province and the new country.

The first page of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, titled An Act to Organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas and passed by the thirty-third Congress of the United States

Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854

By the 1850s, tensions in the United States were falling in around a major issue: slavery. As the country expanded relentlessly westward and more territories and states were coming into existence, the question of slave states versus free states grew in its intensity.

Close up of Manilla on Philippines map

Map of the Philippines, 1734

The city of Manila is a perfect place to think about the importance of cities to world history. Founded by Spanish conquistadors on the site of a small harbor town in 1571, Manila provided the specialized spaces necessary for the first truly globe-circling system of imperial exploitation and commerce.