Browse Primary Sources

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

Page from the Pentaglot Manchu Glossary from

Page from the Pentaglot Manchu Glossary

The Qing empire was founded by the Manchus, and they used a language and a script that were distinct from those used in China Proper. From the 1630s to the 1760s, the Manchus went on to build an early modern empire consisting of its core of China Proper as well as the Inner Asian frontiers such as Manchuria, Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang.

Page from the Qing Veritable Records

Page from Qing Veritable Records

The Qing court used a twelve-month lunar calendar based on the sexagenary cycle, distinct from the solar Gregorian calendar used by most of the world today. This page from the Qing Veritable Records (Da Qing shilu) provides a good example. Here, the date is given in the following format: Qianlong year 2, dingsi [year], month 4, jiaxu [date].

US pamphlet parody of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle

Somoza cartoon

This pamphlet cover, published in 1978 by a U.S. solidarity organization, is a fantastic focal point for exploring periodization in the history of U.S.-Nicaraguan relations. It depicts a cartoonish parody of the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle being propped up by the legs of the U.S. eagle.

1987 letter from the Nicaraguan embassy to Richland County Citizens for Peace and Justice

Letter from the Nicaraguan embassy

This 1987 letter from the Nicaraguan embassy to Richland County Citizens for Peace and Justice, RCCPJ, a Wisconsin solidarity organization, highlights the ways in which non-state actors can craft impactful foreign policies.

Frontpage of the French pamphlet Femmes Nicaragua

Femmes Nicaragua

This pamphlet is an excellent example of the alternative diplomacy pursued by the  FSLN in its struggle with the United States government in the 1980s.

First letter from the British military officer and diplomat Atkins Hamerton on British merchants in the East

1841 Letter from Atkins Hamerton

Atkins Hamerton (d. 1857) was a British military officer and diplomat, who served as the first British Consul to the Omani Empire based in Zanzibar. He left behind thousands of pages of sources, presently scattered between archives in the U.K., Zanzibar, and India.

Title page of Dr. William Ruschenberger's memoir

Memoir of William Ruschenberger

Dr. William Ruschenberger (d. 1895) was a United States Navy surgeon and was assigned to the USS Peacock, serving with Edmund Roberts as part of an American delegation representing the Jackson Administration to negotiate treaties with the Omani Empire and the Kingdom of Siam.

Photograph of the landraad in Pati in 1865

The landraad in Pati

This is a photo of a mixed colonial law court, the landraad, in Pati, a town located on the island of Java, now part of Indonesia. The photo was made by the British photographers Woodbury & Page on the request of the bupati (regent) Raden Adipati Ario Tjondro Adhi Negoro. We know the names of a few of the court members. Seated on the chair on the left side is the Chinese Captain Oei Hotam.

Painting of The Batavia Castle seen from the Kali Besar West

The Batavia Castle

Seventeenth-century market in the city Batavia (nowadays Jakarta, Indonesia), the central node of Dutch imperial activities in the Indian Ocean region. The Batavia Castle is visible in the background and to its right the Council of Justice with the gallows and whipping post in front of it. The Dutch artist depicts a varity of people at the market.

Picture of families in Togo cracking oil palm kernels

Togo farm families cracking oil palm kernels

This photo was part of a short photo series documenting palm oil production in the German colonies in Africa, included in a report by a special oil commission of the German Colonial Society (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft) in 1913.

Picture of Stephen Robinson Parson's notebook where he recorded an ideal ration

Ideal ration recipe

This is one page out of a notebook kept by Stephen Robinson Parsons, a somewhat improvement-minded farmer in South Paris, Maine. Around 1896, Stephen copied into his fact book an ideal ration: 

Clip from Wolff's article on hay's nutritional values

Wolff’s justification for omitting hay values

In 1864, for the first time, Emil Wolff did not include hay values alongside nutritional components in the data tables published annually in the calendar. In this accompanying article, Wolff reframed his previous translation into hay values as merely educational.

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Mikhail Gorbachev’s Resignation Speech

This is a transcript of Gorbachev’s resignation speech. This speech signified the complete end of the Soviet Union. According to the speech, what reasons does Gorbachev give for his resignation? What is the overall tone of this document? Why do you think Gorbachev uses this tone?

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The Alma-Ata Declaration

This document is a translation of the Belovezh Accords, the agreement which essentially declared that the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Those who signed it agreed to form a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Which states were signatories of the Belovezh Accords? Were these all of the former Soviet republics or not? Which states did not sign?

Image of text in Ukrainian of Declaration. Transcription and translation provided with source.

Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine

This source is one example of a former Soviet republic declaring its independence from the Soviet Union. Who created this document? What reasons does the document creator give for wanting to secede from the Soviet Union? What does this document suggest and what is the most telling language in this document that supports its main claims?

Map of Europe with countries shaded based on year they joined NATO.

History of NATO Expansion Map

This map shows the expansion of NATO over time. Have students identify the most recently states to join NATO. Which states have joined NATO after the collapse of communism? Which of these newer NATO states had been Soviet satellite states as opposed to full republics of the Soviet Union? Which countries of interest do these newer members of NATO border?

Map of Europe with countries shaded based on membership in NATO, the Warsaw Pact or nonaligned.

Cold War Europe Military Alliances Map

This map illustrates which states in Europe belonged to NATO or the Warsaw Pact military alliance. The white states were neutral. This map illustrates the infamous Iron Curtain and the split between West and East. Which of these states belonged to the Warsaw Pact? For the states that belonged to the Warsaw Pact, were they satellite states or republics of the Soviet Union?

Inset of Ukraine from larger map of 1918 Europe

Map of Europe, 1918

This map illustrates European borders prior to the start of WWI in 1914 with black lines and new states formed by the First World War in red. As the map illustrates, a number of states became independent from Tsarist Russia. What new states were these? Do you think that newly found independence had an affect on nationalist movements in these areas?

Article text. Transcription in folder.

“The South African College and Its ‘Old Boys,’” 1886

The 1886 article, “The South African College and Its ‘Old Boys’,” provides an example of how universities extended their influence within an empire (or globally) through alumni and their expertise.

Map titled Map Showing Cornell University Lands in Wisconsin for sale. Description in annotation

Map of Land Grant for Cornell University, 1877

Similar to the New Zealand land grant, yet within a distinct political context, the development of land-grant universities in the United States followed and encouraged an institutional financing model based upon Indigenous land acquisition, leasing, and sale.