I studied history. In a couple of years, I’ll be teaching history to high school students. In the time I spent preparing for research papers, I’ve found a few great free databases for primary and secondary sources.
PRIMARY & SECONDARY SOURCE TEXTS
Internet Sacred Text Archive | http://www.sacred-texts.com/ Lots of history classes include religion and religious texts. This archive has an awful lot of texts that are sacred to various religions and cultures. Because most of them were composed millennia ago, they’re public domain and free to share. The Archive also has sagas, myths, and legends, including Arthurian legends, and Icelandic sagas. There are also sections on various topics. It’s very handy to have around.
SagaNet | http://handrit.is/ SagaNet used to be hosted at Cornell, but now it’s hosted through an Icelandic site. However, it’s still the same material. It’s a collection of Icelandic sagas for free access. If you’re studying the vikings, this is very handy to have around.
Perseus Digital Library | http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/ This is a vast collection of classical literature and mythology. My professor for my online Greek & Roman Mythology course recommended it as a source of very accurate translations of classical material. It’s also hosted through Tufts, which bolsters its credibility.
Internet History Sourcebook | http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ Run by Fordham University, this is one of the first sites I would turn to when looking for source material but not knowing any titles. It is separated by time period and area, and is easy to search. There are also subject headings.
Project Gutenberg | http://www.gutenberg.org/ At Project Gutenberg you’ll find transcribed public domain books. Word to the wise: you need to know exactly what you’re looking for.
Amazon | http://www.amazon.com/ Surprisingly, Amazon is a good source for public domain books. That can include translations of ancient, medieval, or early modern literature, historical texts, and religious texts. Also, many religious groups offer free e-book versions of their religious texts as a method of evangelizing. This is really handy when you need to cite a portion of that religious text to back up an interpretation of cultural norms. It’s also really handy if you take any religious studies classes. Personally, I have a mega ton of ancient epics on my e-reader. I really recommend getting the Kindle app if you don’t have an e-reader, it’s available for essentially every format there is.
Library of Congress | http://www.loc.gov/pictures/ The LOC has an enormous collection of historical images, and because it’s a government facility you can download the photos for free! This is super handy if your topic is relatively modern and you want to use images, especially in a presentation.
Bodleian Library | http://bit.ly/1jABCwv Oxford University has shared a lot of incredible medieval imagery from their collections. Because they’re so old, they’re all public domain. Paintings and images are useful for presentations, but also for papers and you can tell a lot about a culture by their art.
Index of Medieval Medical Images | http://digital.library.ucla.edu/immi/ From UCLA, this index gathers images of medieval medicine, as implied by its title. Super useful for any project related to the medieval world or history of medicine.
Academia.edu | https://www.academia.edu/ Here you can search for papers that have been made accessible by the authors. This is great, because so much academic research is behind a paywall, which blocks anyone who doesn’t have the database access from the research. But with a search on Academia.edu you can find plenty of possibilities!
Google Scholar | scholar.google.com When searching for academic articles without a university database, Google Scholar is your best friend. While your results will sometimes be met with paywalls, you can also find some freely available sources here.
Directory of Open Access Journals | http://doaj.org/ Many scholars want their research to be available to all. If only five people read your article, you’re not going to get much discussion out of it. So some journals have made their contents freely available through the Directory of Open Access Journals. You will have to search, but nothing is behind a paywall.
History Pin | http://www.historypin.com/ I was first introduced to History Pin by my public history professor. History Pin is a collaborative project to place “pins” in an electronic map of the world and identify historical happenings. You can put in your area, or any area really, and find photos pinned to the map. I just found a picture of the first post office in my town.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy | http://www.iep.utm.edu/ A lot of history includes philosophy and theory. Maybe you need to find some data about Karl Marx or Emile Durkheim. Maybe you need to understand a topic quickly. This is your spot for that. It’s provided by the University of Tennessee, so it’s credible.
History Lessons on YouTube | http://dft.ba/-historylessons I make short history lessons on my YouTube channel. They’re researched, and I use sources to back up my information. For quick lessons in a topic or time period, check them out.
There are obviously many more databases, but these are databases that are free. I’m sure there are many more free databases I never found, as well. Anyone can access these as long as you have an internet connection. If you’re attached to a school you’ll undoubtedly have access to other databases. Those are great, use them. These are also great, use them too.
Download this guide as a PDF here.