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Primary Sources

This guide to primary sources focuses on collections owned or subscribed to by UBC Library. Freely available resources are also described if they are significant collections or have a Canadian focus.

Definitions

In the social sciences, a primary source can be defined the same way that it is in the humanities - that is to say it is "something that was created either during the time period being studied or afterward by individuals reflecting on their involvement in the events of that time." In addition, empirical studies - and the journal articles which report those studies, as well as numerical data that has been gathered to analyze relationships between people, events, and their environment are primary sources for social scientists.

Formats of Primary Sources

  • Numerical Data, statistics, census figures
  • Surveys, opinion polls, interview transcripts
  • Journal Articles - reporting on studies
  • Artifacts from the time under study (e.g., tools, fossils, coins, pottery, clothing, plant/animal specimens etc.)
  • oral histories
  • case studies, reports
  • field notes

Finding Primary Sources in the Library Catalogue

Try a keyword search in the library catalogue combining your subject with words that identify a particular genre:

  • personal narratives, oral histories
  • interviews, transcripts

Finding Primary Sources in the Social Sciences

Each discipline taught at UBC is represented by a Library Research guide. The guides describe and link to the best sources for your research - including collections which contain significant numbers of primary sources for the Social Sciences. Click the "Social Sciences" link to bring up a list of guides in these topic areas.

Select Collections

Each discipline taught at UBC is represented by a Library Research guide. The guides describe and link to the best sources for your research - including collections which contain significant numbers of primary sources for the Social Sciences. Click the "Social Sciences" link to bring up a list of guides in these topic areas.


  • Archival records RG-10 from the Department of Indian Affairs - Historical records relating to Indian Affairs created by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and its predecessors. Includes files, correspondence, letters, and transcripts. Also referred to as the "Red" and the "Black" Series. The index is available online from ArchiviaNet.
  • Democracy at War: Canadian Newspapers and the Second World War - From the Canadian War Museum, this online database contains "more than 144,000 newspaper articles, manually clipped, stamped with the date, and arranged by subject, (and) includes news stories and editorials from newspapers, mostly Canadian, documenting every aspect of the war." Content chiefly comes from the ''Hamilton Spectator'' but also includes clips from the ''Globe & Mail'', ''Toronto Daily Star'', ''Toronto Telegram'', and some international papers such as the ''New York Times'' and the ''Times (London)''. Note, the collection is almost exclusively limited to English language content.
  • Early Canadiana Online - This online collection contains the full-text of books and pamphlets published in Canada before 1920, and government publications to 1900. The government content continues ''CIHM'', the 'Early Canadiana research collection' located in microfiche at Koerner Library, floor 2. Other thematic sub-collections cover topics including Women's history, English-Canadian literature, History of French Canada, History of the Hudson's Bay company, and Native studies along with Colonial government journals and the 'Jesuit relations'.
  • Early Encounters in North America - Documents the relationships among peoples in North America from 1534 to 1850. The collection focuses on personal accounts from traders, slaves, missionaries, explorers, soldiers, native peoples, and officials, both men and women.
  • Globe and Mail: Canada's Heritage from 1844 - Electronic, full-page scans of all the editions and versions of The Globe from June 1844 to The Globe and Mail until December 2005....Coverage includes all the stories, plus thousands of images, advertisements, classifieds, political cartoons, births and deaths from more than 1.4 million pages of Canada's national newspaper, dating back to the pre-confederation era.
  • Library and Archives Canada - Website for Library and Archives Canada. Contains online exhibits on topics relevant to various aspects of Canadian history, culture and society.
  • Official Report of Debates, House of Common - These are the transcripts of debates in the House of Commons in Canada. Older content available in print at UBC Library.
  • Sessional Papers of Canada - These are the reports tabled in the House of Commons for each parliamentary session. Includes annual reports of departments and reports of royal commissions. Covers 1868-1925.
  • Colonial Despatches - This digital archive contains the original correspondence between the British Colonial Office and the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. This project aims to digitize and publish online a complete archive of the correspondence covering the period from 1846 leading to the founding of Vancouver Island in 1849, the founding of British Columbia in 1858, the annexation of Vancouver Island by British Columbia in 1866, and up to the incorporation of B.C. into the Canadian Federation in 1871.
  • Capilano Timber Company Collection - Digitized photographs depicting "the operations of the Capilano Timber Company, including loggers, logging camps, and views of the Capilano Valley and the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver.
  • Debates of the Legislative Assembly (Hansard, British Columbia) - Transcripts of debates in the legislature of British Columbia from 1972 to present. Also available in print at UBC Library.
  • British Columbia Legislative Assembly Sessional Clipping Books, 1891-1972 - This is a microform collection comprised of newspaper clippings reporting the debates in the BC Legislative Assembly from 1891-1972. Note, verbatim transcripts of the debates were not recorded and compiled until 1972 so this collection is the only cohesive record of the debates pre-1972.
  • Japanese Canadian Photograph Collection - Primarily from BC, this digital collection "documents a wide range of the experiences of Canadians of Japanese descent in British Columbia....(and is) particularly strong in chronicling their treatment during World War II.
  • MacMillan Bloedell Collection - Digitized photographs documenting "document the history of MacMillan Bloedel and its predecessor companies (Powell River Company, Bloedel, Stewart & Welch, H.R. MacMillan Export Company, Ltd., MacMillan & Bloedel, and MacMillan, Bloedel and Powell River Company).
  • Major Matthews' Early Vancouver - Compiled between 1931 and 1956, and totalling seven volumes...''Early Vancouver'' is" a unique information source which chronicles "the very early beginnings of Vancouver and the stories of its residents." The original books were written by the first City Archivist for Vancouver after conducting personal interviews with "everyone he could find who had lived in Vancouver before 1886, the year the City was incorporated and the year it burned in the Great Fire.
  • The Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection - The Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection contains more than 25,000 rare and unique items relating to the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Asian experience in North America, and West Coast history and exploration.
  • Defining Gender - 1450-1910 - Collection of original rare primary documents relating to Gender Studies, sourced from libraries and archives around the world. List of topics.
  • LGBTQ History and Culture since 1940 (Part II) - Rare and unique documentation of LGBTQ history through fully-searchable newsletters, government documents, manuscripts, pamphlets, and other primary sources.
  • Independent Voices - These periodicals were produced by feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Hispanics, LGBT activists, the extreme right-wing press and alternative literary magazines during the latter half of the 20th century.
  • B.C. Gay and Lesbian Archives - The B .C. Gay and Lesbian Archives was founded in 1976 with the task of collecting, preserving and making accessible research materials about the lives of British Columbia gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and intersexual persons.
  • Gay and Lesbian Emergence: Out in Canada - A video collection from the early 1960s, 70s, and 80s from the CBC outlining the struggle for homosexual equality under the law.
  • Transgender Archives at University of Victoria - The University of Victoria has committed itself to the preservation of the history of pioneering activists, community leaders, and researchers who have contributed to the betterment of transgender people. The UVic Archives have been actively acquiring documents, rare publications, and memorabilia of persons and organizations associated with transgender activism since 2007.
  • Mass Observation Online - Sexual Behavior 1939-1950 - Mass Observation was a pioneering social research organization whose papers provide insights into the cultural and social history of Britain from 1937 to 1965. The material in the Mass Observation Archive, and now on Mass Observation Online, offers an unparalleled insight into everyday life in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Queer Zine Archive Project - "The mission of the Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP) is to establish a "living history" archive of past and present queer zines and to encourage current and emerging zine publishers to continue to create. In curating such a unique aspect of culture, we value a collectivist approach that respects the diversity of experiences that fall under the heading "queer."
  • ACTUP Oral History Project - A collection of interviews with surviving members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power formed in 1987 in New York.
  • Gay Peoples Union Collection - The Gay Peoples Union Collection presents digital copies of primary source materials documenting the Gay Peoples Union, the most important gay and lesbian rights organization in Milwaukee during the 1970s.