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HIST 449/812: The Crusading Society

What is a Primary Source

"A primary source is a document, image or artifact ... created contemporaneously with the event under discussion." (Williams, Historian's Toolbox, 2nd ed., p. 56)

Depending on your topic, it may be a diary, a letter, published memoirs and other source documents from the period of study, as well as electronic, microfilm, and printed collections of these documents published at a later date.

For more information, go to the guide, Primary Sources.

Search Omni for Books

1. Search by Subject or Keyword

You can locate items by doing a keyword Boolean search and then adding one of the following special terms to your search: correspondence; diaries; early works to 1800; pamphlets; personal narratives; sources; speeches, etc. For example:

crusades AND sources
jews AND crusades AND sources

TIP:  Use the Advanced Search option where you can consider elements such as Subject Heading and Resource type.

Also browse subject headings and look for these special terms:

Byzantine Empire--History--1081-1483--Sources
Christian saints--France--Correspondence
Church history--Middle Ages, 600-1500--Sources
Crusades First, 1096-1099--Sources
Crusades Second, 1147-1149---Sources
Crusades Third, 1189-1192--Sources
Crusades Seventh, 1248-1250--Sources                     
Crusades--Personal narratives
Jerusalem--History--Latin Kingdom, 1099-1244--Sources

Collections of primary sources often have the word documents, chronicles, or memoirs in the title:

document? AND crusades

2. Look Up Historical Figures

If you know of a person involved in the event or from the time period, look that person's name as an author for memoirs, diaries or correspondence. Search for Authors using the Advanced Search option.

Urban II Pope
Bernard of Clairvaux Saint
Choniates Nicetas ca 1140-1213

3. Find Sources of Translation in our Collection

The Library has several volumes in the series, Crusade Texts in Translation

As well as general collections of primary sources.  Selected titles include:

  Chronicles of the Crusades
  The Crusades: A Reader
  The Crusades: Idea and Reality

Another resource to look at is the series, English Historical Documents, which is available online and in print. The most relevant for this class are the volumes:

v. 1  500-1042
v. 2  1042-1189
v. 3  1189-1327
v. 4  1327-1485

Search the Web

National archives, libraries, agencies & many other organizations publish primary source documents. A selection of sites include:

Internet History Sourcebooks Project

Avalon Project: Medieval Documents, 400-1399

EuroDocs: Medieval and Renaissance Europe

Hanover Historical Texts Collections: Medieval Europe, Letters of Crusaders

Voice of the Shuttle - the Crusades
News, scholarship and more.

Online Medieval Sources Bibliography 

One way to find a more reliable site is to search for ones created at or by educational institutions.  To do this, use the Google Advanced Search option and limit your search by setting domain or site preferences. Enter .edu (U.S.), (Australia), (United Kingdom) into the domain/site box and the results retrieved will only be associated with educational institutions. But even here, you will need to validate the information.

Walled City (15th Century) Bibliotheque nationale de France

The database, Medieval Travel Writing, provides access to a widely scattered collection of medieval manuscripts that describe travel in the Middle Ages, including the Crusades.