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*Primary Sources: A Guide

A guide to identifying and locating primary sources for conducting research in history.

Foreign Relations records

Travelers & Missionaries

A unique and challenging type of source for historians is the travel narrative. Especially common during the nineteenth century, Europeans and later Americans would travel abroad and then publish an account of what they saw and experienced. Historians can use these as a perspective on the cultures and events that these writers witnessed, but more often then not, they tell us more about the writer's colonial preconceptions and biases. When using these as primary source, keep in mind the author and intended audience, and think critically about what the traveler saw and could understand about "the Other."

Missionaries also see the world through a unique lens, sometimes combining colonial perspectives with their mission to proselytize and win religious conversions. Unlike their touring and traveling counterparts, missionaries typically spent long periods of time in one place and developed relationships with their host communities. Consider all of these dynamics as you read and interpret the writings of missionaries.

To find published travel narratives from all time periods, search the FSU Library for a geographic location (e.g. country, city, region) plus the phrase "description and travel."


International newspapers may also provide useful coverage of events in the Middle East. Keep in mind what perspectives the authors and publishers of these newspapers may bring to their subject.

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