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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 498B: The French Revolution

Course guide.

1. Primary Sources

Students often tell us they have difficulty finding primary sources. Below is some general guidance, in case you run into that trouble:

  1. Don't despair. Primary sources that fit your topic can sometimes be difficult to find. We see professors and graduate students in the library day after day immersing themselves in the material culture of the time and place they are studying, often without finding the piece of evidence they need. If expert researchers have trouble, then you shouldn't feel discouraged if you do too.
  2. Because almost anything can be a primary source--depending on how you use it, and what questions you are asking--the field of possible sources is vast, and relatively uncharted. There are fewer finding aids for the discovery of primary sources than for secondary sources, especially primary sources that support newer fields of inquiry, like studies of race, gender, and sexuality.
  3. If you've done your literature review, then go back and see what primary sources those scholars used in their research. Remember it's legitimate to re-examine somebody else's evidence, and to evaluate his or her interpretation: can you draw different conclusions? Is there other evidence that might amplify or call into question the author's argument?

Typically, you find primary sources in the same kinds of places that you find secondary sources, and the first 4 sections of this guide should point you in the right direction.

For much more on primary sources, and on conducting historical research in general, please visit our guide, Library Research for History Students: an Introduction.

2. Online Source Collections

Internet Modern History Sourcebook: the French Revolution.
Directory of freely-available primary and secondary source material on the Web.
EuroDocs: France, 1789-1871.
Annotated bibliography of primary source documents on the Web.
Voice of the Shuttle: 18th & 19th Century France.
Another directory of Web resources.
Napoleon Series.
Maps, illustrations, statistics, photographs, and charts.
Thousands of primary source documents.
The Gerritsen Collection Women's History Online, 1543-1945.
Collection of periodicals, books, and pamphlets on women's history.
Online library of images. Can narrow search by time (e.g. 1750-1900),  place (e.g. France), and keywords (e.g. man, men, homme). For more image collection, see the Architecture and Art Library's guide to Finding Images.

3. Other Source Collections

Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History.
4 vols. See especially vol. 1, no. 5 on The French Revolution, 1789-1791, and vol. 4, no. 5, Typical Cahiers of 1789.