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Andean Studies

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

What are Primary and Secondary Sources?

 Andean History

Primary and Secondary Sources

Historical researchers investigate the past using both primary and secondary sources.

Primary Sources can be defined as anything representing a first-hand account of an event or time in history. These sources can be published or unpublished.

Examples of Primary Sources

  • memoirs, diaries, letters, interviews, and other first-person accounts
  • official publications, government documents, court reports and police records
  • newspaper and magazine articles from the period 
  • paintings, photographs
  • film and television programs
  • print and television advertising, music recordings


Secondary sources are scholarly books or articles that are based on an examination of primary sources, the author's reading of other secondary works, or a combination of both.

Examples of Secondary Sources

  •  most scholarly books
  •  textbooks
  •  most magazine and journal articles

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 listed in box to the left.

In general, to find published primary source material, you should use a subject word search or an exact subject phrase in BobCat 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:

On Microfilm:

The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) Archive on Microfilm is available at the New School. Details on the contents of the microfilm is as follows:

Audio-visual primary source material (available via ILL from the Center for Research Libraries):

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:

What is the Purpose of Reference Works (Secondary Sources)?

Reference Books covering Andean History

In general, reference books in history are designed to do one of the following:

1. provide specific facts or data in short, factual entries (dictionaries, almanacs, chronologies)

2. offer general background information or summarize scholarship on a particular topic in longer interpretive articles (encyclopedias, handbooks)

3. provide references to past or recent scholarship on a particular topic (bibliographies, guides to the literature). Major sources of this type can be quite broad and offer references on a variety of historical fields; many specialized bibliographies are also available on a single region, person or topic.

Of course, some reference books may serve more than one function: a handbook may summarize scholarship and also provide a selected bibliography.

See the General Reference Works tab for recommended reference works. In general, to find reference works, you should use a subject word search or an exact subject phrase in BobCat for your topic, and add the terms: Encyclopedia, Bibliography, Handbook, Sources, etc.

For example, a search for "Andes Region -- History -- Sources" yields:

"Bolivia--Bibliography" yields:

  • Bolivia. New ed. / J. Valerie Fifer, comp. Oxford, Eng.;Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, c2000‚Äč

Finding Books and Articles (Secondary Sources)

Locating Books

BobCat allows users to search for books by author, title, subject or any combination of these. When searching for books by topic, use the "subject" or "subject word" search. 

Bobcat allows both a "subject word" search and a "keyword" search. The "subject word" search looks for your terms within the subject headings. The "keyword" search looks for your terms within all parts of the record (including the author, title, and subject heading). 

Locating Articles

Typically, articles deal with a more focused or narrow topic than books, they reveal current research interests, and are at times a forum for initial publication or reexamination of a specific primary source.

In order to find articles, you need to use an Index. Most indexes are now available on the web. Key indexes for research in Latin American history are listed below.

  • Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS ONLINE and HLAS WEB): A multidisciplinary bibliography and index on Latin America consisting of works selected and annotated by scholars.
  • Hispanic American Periodicals Index (HAPI): Indexes, from 1970- , more than 500 scholarly journals devoted to Latin American topics, with useful subject approach. The majority of journals covered in this index are published in Latin America. Many of the major Latin American journals published in the U.S. are also included.
  • Historical Abstracts: Indexes journal articles and books on the history of the world including Latin America . U.S. and Canadian history are excluded.
  • PAIS International: Provides citations to articles, books, reports, and select government documents on U.S. and international public policy issues. Generally considered to be a comprehensive index to policy literature. 
  • America : History & Life: Indexes journal articles and books on the history of the U.S. and Canada. Includes historical scholarship related to U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.