What are Primary and Secondary Sources?

Keywords: primary source, secondary source, original, history


Primary sources are informations used historical studies. These called original sources. Writers of Primary source lived same time with events that they wrote. All other sources were founded on primary sources. So, when we start research, firstly prefer primary sources.

Primary sources are documents that provide information about the period under investigation, such as edicts, travel writings, archaeological finds, diaries, etc. Primary sources can be considered as the original sources of all the information produced today.

Examples Of Primary Source

Arrian, Periplus of the Euxine Sea, 131

Herodotus, Histories,B.C 430

Procopius, History of the Wars, 550


secondary sources are informations that produced from primary sources. In this sources, writers didn’t live same time to events that wroten. In other words, secondary sources are new sources created by interpreting and synthesizing primary sources. The advantage of secondary sources is that they have background knowledge and can make comparisons with other sources. In addition, they are important resources for us as they are easy to understand and detailed.

Examples Of Primary Source

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 1997
Mary Beard
, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, 2015

Halil İnalcık,The Ottoman Empire The Classical Age 1300-1600, 1974.


A common mistake today is to treat primary sources as absolute truths. Although these sources are the most suitable sources for evaluating history, they have been produced by humans and may contain interpretation.

Absolute truth is the past itself. The accuracy of history depends on the historian’s ability to process the past correctly. However, no matter how talented the historian may be, he cannot fully process the past. Because human is only a small part in historical processes. Therefore, it is impossible to know the past in every detail.

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