Browse Primary Sources

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

Typed letter

Antifascism and Leftist Politics

In February of 1942, in the middle of World War II, the Mexican feminist, educator, and archaeologist Eulalia Guzmán wrote to Raúl Cordero Amador, president of the organization Acción Democrática Internacional (International Democratic Action). Guzmán prefaced her letter by emphasizing that this antifascist organization was doing important work to fight Nazism and totalitarianism more broadly.

Image of mimeographed letter.

Foundations: Research and Sponsorship

The Brazilian intellectual Paulo Duarte wrote Tracy Kittredge of the Social Science Division of the Rockefeller Foundation in 1941. Duarte, then living in the United States because of his opposition to Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas, had worked alongside the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss in São Paulo in the 1930s.

Photograph from an Independence Protest, Alexandria, Egypt, 1919

Following the close of World War I, Egypt became a hotbed of anti-colonial nationalism. Leaders of the nationalist Wafd party formally demanded Egyptian independence to British and US officials, utilizing many of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s own phrases and rhetoric in their appeals.

Excerpts from Harem Years: Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, 1879-1924

The peace process that followed World War One catalyzed calls for self-determination around the colonized world. Existing nationalist organizations seized on the liberal pretensions of the Entente Powers to articulate social and political demands to colonial powers. Egypt, occupied by Britain in 1882 and declared a British protectorate in 1914, was one prominent site of this struggle.

The Miracles of Sainte Foy, Bernard of Angers, c. 1013–1020

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.

Theophilus, On Diverse Arts (De diversis artibus), c. 1120

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.

Bernard of Clairvaux, Apology (Apologia), 1125

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.

Abbot Suger, 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.

Map of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, 1768

In 1768, Sir William Johnson received permission from the British Crown to hold a treaty council with the Iroquois Confederacy and its dependents in order to establish a more official and lasting boundary line without French pressures. A clear boundary line between the Indians and Europeans would prevent colonial encroachments on Indian lands and minimize violence between the two parties.

Excerpts from the Treaty of Logg's Town (1752)

As French and British powers jostled for dominance in the Ohio Country, both courted the Six Nations and their allies. The Six Nations held sway and power over mass amounts of territory—territory that French and British interests wished to control. British colonies had already attempted to secure much land from the Six Nations through treaties.

Handwritten invoice listing items and costs.

Invoice of goods shipped from New Orleans to Matamoros, Mexico in 1847

This image is of an invoice of items shipped from an English firm in New Orleans, Thorn & McGrath, to José San Román in Matamoros, Mexico. It consists primarily of men’s clothing. Studying this invoice gives us a significant insight into how European networks drew the local into the global.

Francois Guilbeau letter on Loredo trade

This source is a favor letter, one of the most common forms of communication among merchants along the Rio Grande in the nineteenth century. This is a longer form of that type of letter, but they all share a general format that includes letting the recipient know that their payment (favor) was received, how much remained on the account, and current market conditions.

Painting of a Chinese junk at sea with the emperor and several functionaries on deck

Chinese Junk, early 18th century

Junks encompass a range of different ships that were essential for maritime trade in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean for centuries. Original junks built in China were likely inspired by the design of ships visiting Chinese ports from Austronesia and Southeast Asian archipelagos.

Painting of a Spanish Galleon at sea firing its canons

A Naval Encounter between Dutch and Spanish Warships

Spanish galleons were large ships specifically built to carry a huge amount of cargo across the vast distances of the Spanish maritime empire. The Manila Galleon Trade is a common topic in world history courses and represents the first truly global trade in world history. The manila galleons, specifically, could reach over 160ft in length.

Photograph of a ship with three masts tied to a dock.

Balclutha

Balclutha was built in 1886 on the River Clyde near Glasgow, Scotland, for Robert McMillan, a Glaswegian shipbuilder who occasionally owned ships as a side-business.

Photograph of a large ship loaded with shipping containers

HMM Algeciras

As of the beginning of 2021, the Algeciras class is the largest container vessel in the world, able to carry nearly 24,000 TEU (twenty-foot long containers). It is constructed by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering and owned by Hyundai Merchant Marine.

Hand drawn map showing islands with mountains

Selden Map

The Selden Map held by the Bodleian Library in Oxford, where it has been kept since 1659. This beautifully illustrated manuscript map shows East and Southeast Asia and marks maritime trading routes in the form of lines across the region. It was made in the first half of the seventeenth century somewhere in East or Southeast Asia.

Hand drawn map with a grid showing land and coastline

Guang yutu map

The map of the “South-Eastern ocean barbarians” from the 1568 edition of the atlas Guang yutu. This atlas is divided into two parts, the first one deals with the geography of China, the second one with the Chinese borderlands, thematic maps, and maps of non-Chinese regions. This map shows the coast of China surrounded by many islands, all shaped more or less in the same way.

Excerpts from the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768)

After decades of skirmishing and cold-war jostling, tensions between Great Britain and France all across the globe finally came to a head in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). Indians were central players in the war, however many indigenous on both sides were concerned about the futures of themselves and their lands since the war ended with French cessions of their claims in North America.

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Excerpts from the Treaty of Lancaster (1744)

With the threat of war with France looming on the horizon, the English colonies treated with the Iroquois Confederacy to determine a clearer boundary line between Indian lands and the western edges of the English colonies in pursuit of peace. The Treaty of Lancaster (1744) established the line at the eastern foot of the Shenandoah Mountains.