Browse Primary Sources

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

Thumbnail of a boy playing with a toy truck

Recycled Wire Toy Truck, Uganda

The photograph shows a boy "driving" an ingeniously simple but functional toy truck made of wire, wood, and what are likely plastic bottlecap wheels. Purchased, often imported toys are very expensive and homemade toys are common in many poorer countries. A father or other relative may compensate for this by making a simple toy out of old cans and wire.

Thumbnail photograph of girl from Burkina Faso

Girl with Mossi Doll, Burkina Faso

This girl is from a village in the Mossi country of Burkina Faso (a landlocked country in West Africa). The doll she is holding is a traditional wooden figurine made from one piece of wood standing on a broader base.

Moonbeam Youth Training Center, Kenya

The video shows The Moonbeam Youth Training Centre in Mavoko, Nairobi. The Centre is a project of UN-HABITAT built with support from UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuk. The purpose of the center is to improve housing in urban slums by training young people in low cost, alternative construction technologies.

Thumbnail of Dan Passport Mask

Dan Passport Masks

This small, mask ( 9.5 cm high and 5 cm wide) carved from wood is called a "passport" mask because it was worn on the body, kept in a leather pouch, or sewn onto a piece of cloth to represent group or family affiliation. Passport masks are used by the Dan people, a group of several hundred thousand people in the western part of the Côte d’Ivoire and into Liberia.

Thumbnail image of Los tres mulatos de Esmeraldas

Los tres mulatos de Esmeraldas

This is a painting entitled “The Mulatto Gentlemen of Esmeraldas” from Spanish America. The painting was made in 1599 by a relatively well-known indigenous painter who was working in Quito at the time, a man named Andrés Sánchez Gallque.

Thumbnail image of Codex Mendoza

Codex Mendoza

This is a map from the Codex Mendoza (circa 1543) that represents the founding of Tenochtitlan, the large imperial capital of the Aztecs. It offers an important window into visual culture and social, religious, and political life in the early era of Spanish colonization.

Florence Farmborough

Florence Farmborough’s Journal

Florence Farmborough was an English nurse working on the Russian front during World War I. Her diary contains many descriptive, lively accounts of the war and the very active role played by women, both in the traditional role as caretakers of the wounded, but also as fighters.

Missionary Journal, Chinese Culture

This article was published in a missionary journal printed in the cities of Fuzhou and Shanghai. The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal operated between 1868 and 1912. It was read by English-speakers living in the major cities of China as well as abroad.

Women’s Work for Woman

This article was published in a missionary journal printed in the cities of Fuzhou and Shanghai. The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal operated between 1868 and 1912. It was read by English-speakers living in the major cities of China as well as abroad. In this paper, Mrs. Farnham addresses her “missionary sisters” on the matter of working to convert Chinese women.

Schools for the Education of Chinese Girls

This article was published in a Protestant missionary journal based in Canton that operated from 1832 until 1851. Its readership included both the foreigners living in Canton and home religious communities in Britain and the United States.

Thumbnail image of Northern Chinese woman with foot binding.

Foot Binding

This photograph presents a very different vision of foot binding from that depicted by Western observers in the 19th century. Whereas Western visitors to China seemed most interested in the bound foot unbound, as deformity or fetish, this photo shows the bound foot as it had meaning in Chinese culture: as part of clothing or fashion.

Missionary Journal, Foot Binding 3

This article and corresponding letter were both written in response to J. Dudgeon’s piece, “The Small Feet of Chinese Women,” The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal 2 (1869): 93-96. This journal was printed in the cities of Fuzhou and Shanghai between 1868 and 1912. It was read by English-speakers living in the major cities of China as well as abroad. Dr. Kerr responds to Dr.

Missionary Journal, Foot Binding 2

This article was published in a missionary journal printed in the cities of Fuzhou and Shanghai. The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal operated between 1868 and 1912. It was read by English-speakers living in the major cities of China as well as abroad. The article takes up a subject that excited great interest among Western residents of China: foot binding.

Missionary Journal, Foot Binding 1

This article was published in a Protestant missionary journal, based in Canton, that operated from 1832 until 1851. Its readership included both the foreigners living in Canton and home religious communities in Britain and the United States.

The Ethics of Christianity and Confucianism Compared

This selection is the ninth of ten sections in an article comparing Confucianism and Christianity. The article was published in a missionary journal printed in the cities of Fuzhou and Shanghai. The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal operated between 1868 and 1912. It was read by English-speakers living in the major cities of China as well as abroad.

The Natural History of a Chinese Girl

This excerpt is part of a serial article entitled “The Natural History of a Chinese Girl,” which ran between July 4, 1890, and July 18, 1890. The North China Herald and Supreme Court and Consular Gazette was a secular newspaper published in Shanghai between 1870 and 1941, enjoying a wide readership among the foreign communities along the Chinese coast.

“Remarks on Chinese Character and Customs” article thumbnail image

Remarks on Chinese Character and Customs

This article was published in a Protestant missionary journal, based in Canton, that operated from 1832 until 1851. Its readership included both the foreigners living in Canton and home religious communities in Britain and the United States.

Thumbnail image of Cinderella 1914 moving image.

Cinderella (1914)

Slotted to premier on Christmas week, Famous Players’s Cinderella (1914) was marketed as a child-friendly fantasy for the whole family whose cutting-edge cinematography would bring to life the popular fairytale of rags-to-riches girlhood. However, Cinderella was foremost conceived as a vehicle for rising star Mary Pickford.

Thumbnail image for Gorbachev challenge source

Soviet Policy Towards the West: The Gorbachev Challenge

As President George H. W. Bush took office in January 1989, factions within his administration disagreed concerning the approach to take with regard to US-Soviet relations.

Thumbnail image of The Secret of England's Greatness painting.

The Secret of England's Greatness

There are many paintings that represent the British Empire, but The Secret of England’s Greatness (1863) by Thomas Jones Barker is one of the most powerful. It depicts Queen Victoria presenting a bible to a kneeling African chief in the Audience Chamber at Windsor. In the background are her husband, Albert, and members of the government.