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History of Business: Finding Primary Sources

A guide to the resources for business history.

What is a Primary Source?

When doing research, it is important to identify what kind of resource you will need. 

primary source is "original material." A primary source might be a letter written to or from a specific individual you are studying, a diary, a newspaper article, government proclamations and documents, etc. They are first-hand accounts of an event or time period. 

Conversely, a secondary source is any material produced by someone without first-hand knowledge of an event. For example, scholarly articles or commentaries are considered secondary sources.

There is a third type of source known as tertiary sources. These are the farthest removed from a first-hand testimony and are sources that pull from primary and secondary sources to present information to their audience. Common examples of tertiary sources are some textbooks, guidebooks, almanacs, etc.

Digital Newspaper Archives

The following sites are electronic databases that archive current and historical newspapers. The dates available will vary from site to site, but they are searchable by keyword as well as date and will feature stories pertaining to business and industry.

Online Archives of Primary Sources

Related Research Guides

The following research guides are maintained by the University of Kentucky and list primary sources held in the Special Collections Research Center. These sources may only be viewed in the Special Collections Research Center, which has different hours and policies than the other academic libraries on UK's campus. For more information, please visit its website.

Specific Company Histories

Business and Economics Liaison

Peter Hesseldenz's picture
Peter Hesseldenz
W.T. Young Library

University of Kentucky

Lexington, KY 40506-0456

(859) 218-1840