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Signing of the Declaration of Independence

Reading historical documents is a good way to learn about the past. Historians, examine these documents, to discover what has happened in the past, and how these events influence people and society in the present.


Historic documents include:

With the introduction of the Internet, these historical documents, known as primary sources in the history profession, are becoming more accessible and easier to find.

Join me on a tour of currently available archives, and other information websites to discover how you can learn about history through the reading and research of historical documents. Also, you will learn how some historians, amateur and professional, use the Internet, to tell the world about the past and present, their ideas and theories, and why and how events happened.

Archives and Libraries

The first place we shall look at is archives and libraries, both government and private. These institutions contain information, collections and other works that are important to the historian.

One of the best places for government information in the United States is the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Web site. Here you will find information on the past through government records, kept since the formation of the United States. You can even find special exhibits about important events.

Colleges and Universities are another resource for informative documents. For example the University of Virginia, contains works of Thomas Jefferson and others. They even have special exhibits like the George Washington papers. You can view and read the scanned images of Washington's letter books as they originally appear or you can read the text.

Personal Sites

The second place for finding documents is personal web sites. For example, Kim's famous love letter's web site presents the love letters of famous individuals. Beethoven's letter to his Immortal Beloved is a fine example. You will also find letters written by:

Each letter also has a historical background available for study. Letters show the historian how the writer felt, how they felt, and how the events of the day affected them.

Some documents have found their way into software programs. One site devoted to the Roots of Constitutional Government, in the United States and around the world, is the Left Justified Web site. Here you can examine: