Skip to Main Content

History: Sources

Welcome to the Glucksman Library guide supporting the Department of History in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in the University of Limerick


Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are interpretations of events written after an examination of primary sources and usually other secondary sources, such as books and journal articles. Historians' accounts are usually called 'secondary sources', in order to distinguish them from the 'primary' source material on which they are based. However, 'secondary source' is not an entirely satisfactory term. It suggests a hierarchy of importance, with 'secondary' writings ranking less highly than 'primary' sources. This can lead the unwary student into assuming that primary sources must somehow be a more direct - and therefore more accurate - reflection of the past.

Finding Books and eBooks

Library Search


Use the Library Search to see if the item is available in the library. Note the shelfmark and then go to the shelfmark to locate the book.

Ebooks or electronic books can be accessed via Library Search

Here are some other useful shelfmarks for history:

940.53         World War Two

262/282       Irish catholic church history, church and politics

301.44         History of class

508              History of Irish natural history 

700-709       Art history, critical, cultural politics, aesthetics

900-907       Historiography and historical method and tools

Historical Evidence

Liberty Hall in Dublin during the 1916 Rising.


Any leftover of the past can be considered a source. It might well be a document, and we often think of history as a textual discipline, based on the interpretation of written texts, but it might also be a building, a piece of art or an ephemeral object – a train ticket, say, or perhaps a pair of shoes. These are all 'sources' because they all provide us in different ways with information which can add to the sum of our knowledge of the past.

Sources only become historical evidence, however, when they are interpreted by the historian to make sense of the past. The answers they provide will very much depend on the sorts of questions historians are asking. It all depends on what the historian wants to know. This is why it makes little sense to ask if something is 'good historical evidence', without knowing what evidence it's supposed to provide.

National Library of Ireland

Reference Books for History and Archives

Primary Sources

Primary sources are the raw materials  of historical research - they are the documents or artifacts closest to the topic of investigation. Often they are created during the time period which is being studied (correspondence, diaries, newspapers, government documents, art) but they can also be produced later by eyewitnesses or participants (memoirs, oral histories). You may find primary sources in their original format (usually in an archive) or reproduced in a variety of ways: books, microfilm, digital, etc.

The National Archives of Ireland

The National Archives holds records relating to all parts of Ireland. They provide excellent primary source material and are easily accessible to the public.

Helpful to researchers, those interested in the political, economic and social forces shaping the country and those interested in studying government policy.

Cannot Find What You Are Looking For?

If the book is out on loan, you can place a request on it, if there are no other copies available to borrow.

Borrowing from other libraries?  Request an Interlibrary Loan - Available to Staff, Postgraduates & 4th Year Undergraduates ONLY.

Recommend a book? - Contact the Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences Librarian if you would like to recommend a book we should buy for the library.

Finding an article on a reading list

Try this first:

You can look up articles in Library Search, our resource discovery service.

Put the exact title of the article in inverted commas.

If we can provide an instant link you will see the journal article displayed - click Online Access or Fulltext available online to access the text.


Next steps:

If we cannot provide a quick article link or it fails, then search for the name of the whole Journal instead of the article title e.g. "Journal of Common Market Studies"

For print-only journals you will be shown the location and shelfmark, so that you can locate the volume on the shelf

For electronic journals, click to link to the full journal and then navigate to the year, volume and issue that you want to see your article: or there may be an option to search for the article title provided by the online journal portal in which case key in the article in that box.