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HIST 183: History of Early West Africa

Professor Thabiti Willis - Spring 2021

What is a primary source?

There's no one thing, but for historians, it's generally something that was created at the time of the event. Try searching using terms like: biography [also use for autobiographies], newspapers, "personal papers" [use for archival material], correspondence [use for letters], personal diaries, photographs, videos, interviews, pamphlets, artwork, sources [a common one!], and many other types of things!

STRATEGY: Use bibliographies and notes of seconary lit

Historians not only reference the secondary sources they use, but they also document their primary works carefully. As such, you can use the bibliographies and notes to learn about specific titles of sources (Dahomey and Its Neighbors) as well as types of sources (travel accounts, early treatises, letters) that historians use to explore a subject.

STRATEGY: Find ethnographies

Ethnographies from current or previous anthropologists may contain rich description of historical cultural practices.  As such, these ethnographies can complement written primary sources and images, providing an additional window into ethno-historical group about which you are writing.

Best bets for searching in Catalyst or Worldcat...

  1. [name of empire] + ethnology
  2. Subject (contains) West Africa History Sources

STRATEGY: Search a digitized collection (texts and images)