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HIST 3550: Science and Medicine in Ancient and Medieval Europe: Primary Sources

What's a Primary Source?

Norsk (bokmål)‬: Side fra Kongespeilet.A primary source is any record contemporary to an event or time period.  Primary sources may be written, oral, visual or physical.  They may be intentional (created for posterity) or unintentional. They may be religious writings, literary works, maps, record books, songbooks, artworks, and more.

Primary Sources: Ancient

Primary Sources in the Library Catalog

There are certain words that appear in the subject headings of items in our library catalog, that are used for primary sources.  The most important of them is sources, but there are others.

In the simple keyword search box, you can put such words after SU: in order to specify the SUBJECT field.

ex.: ancient and (medic* OR surg*) and SU "sources"

In the advanced keyword search, you can put your search term(s) in the top box, and in the second box, put the word(s) you're using to locate primary sources in the next box, and change the drop-down menu to SU Subject terms.

Keywords that will help you find primary sources:

  • sources
  • early works to 1500
  • early works to 1800
  • correspondence
  • sermons
  • quotations
  • collections

Depending on the period being studied, it can also be helpful to limit your search by publication date.

More keywords identifying primary sources in Library of Congress Subject Headings.

Primary Sources - Medieval

Special Collections

Available via ILL

The Center for Research Libraries in Chicago is a treasure trove of rare primary sources, which they loan to member libraries on generous terms.  Tricks for finding primary sources in the UM LIBRARIES CATALOG can also work in CRL's catalog (sample keyword search:. viking* and su:sources).

Sources on this topic are often in languages other than English.

If you locate an item you wish to request, use ILL@MU.

Medieval Abbreviations