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Andean Studies

A guide for those interested in the literature, history, and culture of the Andes.

Primary Sources Defined

A primary source is a first-hand record of an event or topic created by a participant in or a witness to that event or topic. Primary sources can be a document, letter, eye-witness account, diary, article, book, recording, statistical data, manuscript, or art object. Primary sources vary by discipline and provide an original source of information about an era or event. Although primary sources can include first-hand accounts that were documented later, such as memoirs or oral histories, primary sources created or written closest to the time of the actual event are considered to be the most useful sources for research purposes (Library of Congress, 2020, FAQ, para. 2)

Primary Source Databases

Finding Primary Sources Online, in Print and on Microfilm

When searching for primary sources in the library keep in mind these three points:

  1. The more remote in time your research topic, the fewer primary sources will be available.
  2. To a considerable extent, researchers in the pre-twentieth-century era are hampered by a lack of tools (indexes and bibliographies) to facilitate their search.
  3. Political, constitutional and diplomatic history are the most extensively documented subfields; primary sources for social history can be more difficult to locate.

To find digitized primary sources, you can search the databases and links to archival collections.

In general, to find published primary source material, you should use a subject word search or an exact subject phrase in the Library Catalog for your topic, and add the terms: 

  • Sources
  • Personal Narratives
  • Description and Travel
  • correspondence

Examples of Library of Congress subject headings related to the Andean History include:

  • Peru -- History -- War of Independence, 1820-1829
  • Indians of South America -- Andes
  • Bolivia--History--To 1809
  • Tupac-Amaru, José Gabriel, d. 1781

Examples of published primary sources

In Print:


Also, keep in mind full text source material available via Google Books. For example, see the advanced search option on Google Books and look up the following: