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Eyewitness & Primary Sources

The best thing about primary source documents isn't that they help us know exactly what happened—it's that they help us understand how people thought about what happened. Often, the authors of these works aren't altogether reliable narrators if we're going for exactitude and accuracy, but it's much more difficult to obscure one's feelings and thoughts on a matter, especially an important eventwith which they're directly involved.

A primary source document is any writing about an historical period or event by a participant or eye-witness. Both William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation and the U.S. Constitution are primary source documents, and both reflect the attitudes common during the time and place they were respectively conceived.

For Christians, the ultimate primary source document is the Bible. It's also an excellent resource for studying ancient history, as it gives unique insights into Near Eastern culture, thought, religion and warfare. Of course, the primary importance of God's Word is as divine revelation, Christ's Gospel and the Christian's guide for life and doctrine, but that doesn't mean we can't also use it to learn about the context of ancient Israel and the surrounding nations.

People sometimes dismiss primary source documents as "too difficult to read," but what's striking about most of them is how accessible they are. Because these texts werewritten by men and women directly involved in what they're writing about, there's a sense of immediacy and straightforwardness often lacking in what we've come to know as "history books."

Most of these titles are best used as supplements. For instance, while Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will clarifies many of the concerns of the Reformers, the events and figures of the Protestant Reformation aren't addressed. Also, many primary source texts are theproduct of conquerors and victoriousmilitary leaders, and evidence a distinct bias that needsto be counterbalanced with a more factual study.

However you choose to integrate or implement these texts,be sure to approach them with interest and excitement. This isn't just history as a subject; it's history as the living story of people in our world, their thoughts and desires, their victories,and their tragedies. This is the human face of history, and one that cannot be ignored if you expect to have a consistent and thorough understanding both of the past and the present.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

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82 Items found Print
Across America on an Emigrant Train
by Jim Murphy
from Sandpiper Books
for 5th-8th grade
in Immigration & Emigration (Location: B01-22B)
Alfred the Great
by Asser
from Penguin Classics
Biography for 9th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
American Waterways: Canal Days
by Jeanne Munn Bracken, ed.
from History Compass
for 7th-12th grade
in 19th Century America (Location: B01-11C)
Ancient History from Primary Sources
by Hans & Laurie Bluedorn
from Trivium Pursuit
Ancient History Reference/Primary Resources for
in Ancient History (Location: B02-02A)
Annals of Imperial Rome
Penguin Classics
by Tacitus
from Penguin Classics
Historical Non-Fiction for 10th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates
Signet Classics
by Patrick Henry & John DeWitt
from Signet Classics
American Political Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: CLT-18C)
Art of War
by Sun Tzu
Later Printing from Oxford University
for 10th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
Art of War
by Sun Tzu
Later Printing from Dover Publications
for 10th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
Attack at Michilimackinac 1763
by David Armour
from Mackinac State Historic Parks
for 8th-12th grade
in Exploration (1450-1900) (Location: B01-05A)
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Dover Thrift Editions
by Benjamin Franklin
from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Autobiography of Charles G. Finney
by Charles G. Finney
from Bethany House
Autobiography for 9th-Adult
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Behind Enemy Lines
Sterling Point Books
by H.R. DeMallie
from Sterling Publishing Co.
for 5th-9th grade
in WWII: European Theater (Location: B01-25C)
Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography and Other Writings
Signet Classics
by Benjamin Franklin
Reprint from Signet Classics
Autobiography for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: CLT-18C)
Biblical Antiquity Volume Two: New Testament
by Evan B. Wilson
for 4th-7th grade
in Ancient History (Location: B02-02A)
Biblical Antiquity: Old & New Testament in One Volume
by Evan B. Wilson
from Big Haus Society
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in Ancient History (Location: B02-02A)
Boy at Fort Mackinac
by Harold Dunbar Corbusier
for 5th-9th grade
in 19th Century America (Location: B01-11C)
Boy on the Wooden Box
by Leon Leyson
Reprint from Atheneum
for 4th-8th grade
Christopher Award
in Holocaust (Location: B01-26A)
Boys' War
by Jim Murphy
from Clarion Books
Historical Non-fiction for 5th-8th grade
in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: B01-18A)
Chronicles of the Crusades
by Joinville and Villehardouin
from Penguin Classics
for 9th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
Civil War
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by Julius Caesar
from Penguin Classics
Primary Source Documents for 10th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
Co. Aytch
by Sam Watkins
from Touchstone
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in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: B01-18A)
Codes of Hammurabi and Moses
by W. W. Davies
from Book Jungle
Primary Source Document for 7th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
Colonial Triangular Trade: An Economy Based on Human Misery
by Phyllis Raybin Emert, ed.
from History Compass
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in Slavery & the Underground Railroad (Location: B01-17D)
Conquest of Gaul
Penguin Classics
by Julius Caesar
from Penguin Classics
Primary Source Documents for 10th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
Constitution of the United States of America
by Founding Fathers
from Applewood Books
Primary Source Documents for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: CLT-18C)
Declaration of Independence and Other Great Documents of American History
Dover Thrift Editions
by John Grafton, editor
from Dover Publications
Primary Source Documents for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: CLT-18C)
Declaration of Independence with Short Biographies of its Signers
by Thomas Jefferson
from Applewood Books
Primary Source Documents for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: CLT-18C)
Documentary History of the United States
by Richard D. Heffner
7th edition from Penguin Putnam
for 9th-12th grade
in American History Reference (Location: B04-03C)
Early American Literature
from Perfection Learning
for 8th-12th grade
in American Literature Curriculum (Location: B18)
Early Christian Writings
by Various, Thomas Wyatt
Revised from Penguin Putnam
for 10th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions
by CRC Publications
from CRC Publications
for 10th-Adult
in Creeds, Confessions & Catechisms (Location: C05-01E)
Federalist Papers
Signet Classics
by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison & John Jay
from Signet Classics
American Political Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: CLT-18C)
First Voyage to America
by Christopher Columbus
from Dover Publications
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in Exploration (1450-1900) (Location: B01-05A)
Four Voyages
by Christopher Columbus
from Penguin Classics
Historical Primary Sources for 9th-Adult
in Renaissance & Reformation Literature (Location: CLT-REN)
From Basic to Baghdad
by J. B. Hogan
from Bright Ideas Press
Autobiographical Letters for 11th-Adult
in 20th Century: 1991-Current (Location: B01-27D)
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by Frank A. Haskell & William C. Oates
from Bantam Books
Historical Non-fiction for 9th-Adult
in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: B01-18A)
History of God's Remarkable Providences
by Increase Mather
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Historical Non-Fiction for 9th-Adult
in Colonial America (1690-1765) (Location: B01-09A)
Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
by Olaudah Equiano
from Modern Library
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: CLT-18C)
Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions
by Jonathan Edwards
from P&R Publishing
for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: CLT-18C)
Josephus: New Complete Works
by Flavius Josephus
from Kregel Publications
for 9th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
Josephus: The Essential Writings
by Flavius Josephus
from Kregel Publications
for 9th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
Journals of Lewis & Clark
Signet Classics
by John Bakeless, editor
from Signet Classics
Primary Source Documents for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
Journey and Ordeal of Cabeza de Vaca
Dover editions
by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca
from Dover Publications
for 5th-Adult
in Renaissance & Reformation Literature (Location: CLT-REN)
Life and Diary of David Brainerd
by David Brainerd
from Baker Books
Biography for 10th-Adult
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Life of Johnny Reb
by Bell Irvin Wiley
Updated Edition from Louisiana State University Press
for 10th-Adult
in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: B01-18A)
March to Coomassie
by G. A. Henty
from Robinson Curriculum
for 6th-10th grade
in G. A. Henty Books (Location: A05-04A)
March to Coomassie
by G. A. Henty
from Robinson Curriculum
for 6th-10th grade
in G. A. Henty Books (Location: A05-04A)
March to Magdala
by G. A. Henty
from Robinson Curriculum
for 6th-10th grade
in G. A. Henty Books (Location: A05-04A)
March to Magdala
by G. A. Henty
from Robinson Curriculum
for 6th-10th grade
in G. A. Henty Books (Location: A05-04A)
Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses
by Martin Luther
from P&R Publishing
for 7th-Adult
in Renaissance & Reformation Literature (Location: CLT-REN)
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