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Florida History

A guide to exploring the history of Florida through primary sources.

How to Use this Guide

This guide to researching Florida history focuses on two important questions:

  • How do we analyze primary sources?
  • Where do we find primary sources relevant to Florida history?

On the following pages, we will explore examples of primary sources that relate to some aspect of Florida history. Each example is a type of primary source you might encounter in archives, libraries, or online. We will examine each example using a process adapted from educator resources created by the U. S. National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) .

Following each example, we will offer suggestions for where to find more of each type of primary source.

Where to Begin?

The pages of this guide each focus on a different type of primary source and can be viewed in any order. You will decide which type of sources are most relevant to your research question, so feel free to prioritize or limit your work to those pages.

If you decide to follow the menu from top to bottom and view pages in sequence, you will notice that the examples for each primary source type are in chronological order. In other words, the first page about Travel Writing gives an example from the Spanish conquest of Florida, while the last page about Oral Histories gives an example from the mid-twentieth century Civil Rights Movement in Florida.

Doing History

Researching the history of Florida is similar to researching other history topics. You will need to consider what other historians have discovered about the past by reading secondary sources, usually in the form of books and journal articles. For more on finding scholarship written by historians, visit the main History Research Guide.

Studying history also requires analyzing and interpreting primary sources. Primary sources are the building blocks of historical research - they are the documents or artifacts closest to the topic of investigation that you will use as evidence to support your interpretation of the past. Often they are created during the time period you are studying (e.g. correspondence, diaries, newspapers, government documents, art), but they can also be produced later by eyewitnesses or participants (e.g. memoirs, oral histories). You may find primary sources in their original format in archives, or reproduced in a variety of ways, such as published in books, on microfilm, or digitized in a searchable database.

Thematic Digital Collections

If you're ready to dive right in, here are links to archives here in Tallahassee as well as some digitized collections relevant to Florida history.

The Florida State University Libraries

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