Browse Primary Sources

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

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Excerpts from the Treaty of Albany (1722)

By the mid-18th century, the Iroquois Confederacy was a significant sovereign power and the main physical buffer between the English colonies in the northeast (New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and New England) and French settlements around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

Map showing railways across Eastern China, Korea, and Japan

Southern Manchuria Railway (1906-1945)

The world’s earliest locomotive-operated railroads, short stretches transporting coal and ore locally from mines to factories and furnaces, were developed in Britain between 1800 and 1825. Soon the potential for transporting all kinds of goods as well as passengers became apparent, and by the 1830s railways were also being built in France, Prussia and the United States.

Gold sculpture of a bird with it's head turned backwards

Akan Gold-Weight in the Shape of the Sankofa Bird

These intricate figurines, made by skilled West African smiths, were measuring instruments central to world flows of capital and commerce through medieval and early modern times.

Image of typed emmerton letter

Emmerton Letter, 1926

Between 1919 and 1935, citizens of the U.S. and Canada complained about industrial pollution from an American company called the Solvay Process Company (also called the Michigan Alkali Corporation), which dumped its wastes on Fighting Island, in the Detroit River. The island is in the United States, but the boundary line runs past it through the Detroit River.

View of the Coffee Plantation Marienbosch in Surinam

View of the Coffee Plantation Marienbosch in Surinam

This painting is a view of the Marienbosch coffee plantation along the banks of the Commewijne River in the Dutch colony of Surinam (present-day Suriname). Alongside coffee, the plantation also produced cotton and cocoa. The artist, Willem de Klerk, never visited Surinam. Instead, he based this painting on a drawing made by Alexander Ludwich Brockmann.

Men and women prepare copra in the Dutch East Indies

Copra Production in the Dutch East Indies

This photograph, taken by Onnes Kurkdjian, depicts men and women preparing copra in the Dutch East Indies in the early twentieth century. Copra is dried coconut kernels. Once sufficiently dried, laborers then crush the copra to expel its valuable coconut oil. The extracted oil is used for a variety of different products, such as soaps and cosmetics.

Page 10 from Gambar-Gambar akan Peladjaran dan Kasoekaän Anak-anak dan Iboe-bapanja

Coffee Production in the Dutch East Indies

This is a page from an educational print for children called Gambar-Gambar akan Peladjaran dan Kasoekaän Anak-anak dan Iboe-bapanja (Prints for the Benefit and Pleasure of Young and Old). The collection of prints, totaling 24 pages, depict various aspects of Indonesian life under Dutch colonial rule in the late nineteenth century.

Sheet 7 of Ancient Courses: Mississippi River Meander Belt Map

Ancient Courses: Mississippi River Meander Belt

This is one of fifteen maps of the Mississippi River created by cartographer and geologist Dr. Harold N. Fisk in 1944. The maps were part of Fisk's Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

Map of the earth showing areas where lights can be seen from space at night

World Light Map

In "38 maps that explain the global economy", Matthew Yglesias has captured for Vox the prominent features of our contemporary global economy and society. For example, this map from NASA is a composite satellite image that shows how each region of the world appears at night.

Painting shows king and queen at court

Sorghaghtani Beki and Tolui

In this illustration from Rashid al-Din’s Compendium of Chronicles Sorghaghtani Beki and Tolui sit together on a pillowed throne. Here the artist depicts different aspects of ideal Mongol masculinity than do illustrations of warriors, as Tolui interacts in a dignified way with the court ladies and officials surrounding him.

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Sorghaghtani Beki in the eyes of court historians

Sorghaghtani Beki, the wife and then widow of Chinggis Khan’s youngest son Tolui, appears in many contemporary written sources about the Mongol Empire, and is always viewed positively.

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The Anda Bond

Along with practices of male bonding that are shared with other times and places, such as membership in all-male groups with distinctive uniforms or clothing or socializing in places where women are not allowed or do not go, the Mongols also had a specific type of male bonding, the anda bond.

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Chinggis Khan and his wife Börte in The Secret History of the Mongols

Chinggis Khan had four sons by his principal wife Börte, though there is some question as to his eldest son Jochi’s true father. Börte and Temüjin were married as children, and shortly afterward, she was abducted by the rival Merkid confederation, and stayed with them several months before Temüjin recovered her.

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Chinggis Khan’s mother Hogelun in The Secret History of the Mongols

The Secret History of the Mongols, the story of the rise and rule of Chinggis Khan and his son and successor Ogodei produced by an anonymous court scribe in about 1240, is full of close mother-son relationships. One of these is the relationship between Temujin (the future Chinggis Khan) and his four brothers and their mother Hö’elun (or Hogelun).

Painting shows mounted warriors armed with bow and arrows in combat

Mounted Mongol Warriors

In this watercolor illustration from the Compendium of Chronicles, the enormous hemispheric history by the learned official Rashid al-Din finished around 1310, mounted Mongol warriors shoot bows and arrows while riding, a military tactic perfected by steppe warriors. The soldiers they are chasing are also Mongol dress, so this may represent a conflict between different Mongol groups.

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Chinggis Khan on his father Yesügei

This comment of Chinggis Khan about his father appears in the learned official Rashid al-Din’s Compendium of Chronicles, finished about 1310, so it was probably first handed down orally. In the first part of the comment, Chinggis Khan seems to be extolling his father’s toughness: he had great skills and did not suffer from hunger or thirst.

Frontispiece of Sir Thomas Roe

Frontispiece of Sir Thomas Roe

This image is the frontispiece of Sir Thomas Roe (ca. 1581-1644) from the book The Negotiations of Sir T. Roe in his Embassy to the Ottoman Porte from the year 1621 to 1628, a collection of his correspondence during his time as the English ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Roe advanced England's mercantile interests in Asia throughout the early seventeenth century.

The Archbishop's Palace of Alcalá de Henares

The town of Alcalá de Henares is located outside of Madrid, the current capital of Spain. In the late-fifteenth century, it served an important purpose as the home of the archbishop. His lavish palace was lavishly decorated, but considerably smaller than other royal homes. Yet, it still occasionally hosted other dignitaries, such as Queen Isabella (1451-1504).

“Contraste” by Joaquín Torres García

This painting, entitled “Contraste,” or Contrast, originates in Montevideo, Uruguay. The artist behind the work is Joaquín Torres García (1874–1949), whose downtown Montevideo home has been converted into a museum dedicated to the artist. Created in 1931, this painting reflects the linear style that Torres Garcia carries through much of his works.

Pound Homestead

This historic homestead was built in the mid-nineteenth century near modern-day Dripping Springs, Texas. It belonged to the family of Joseph M. Pound, a doctor who provided medical services to the local community, including the indigeous peoples (such as the Tonkawa). He had also served in the Confederate army. During this period, Texas was a sparsely-populated frontier region.