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Primary Sources:  World History

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 10 months, 2 weeks ago

17th century Chinese illustration of a crank-operated rotary winnowing fan machine,

separating husks from the grain published in 1637

external image Winnowing_machine.jpg

Internet History Sourcebooks Project from Fordham University.



Internet Modern History Sourcebook

Women in World History, from World History Matters from George Mason University.


World History I Suggested Sources, Honolulu Community College





History of the Peloponnesian War
431 B.C.E.
Thucydides' account of the Peloponnesian War, in which Athens and Sparta fought for control of Ancient Greece.

The Republic
380 B.C.E.
Plato wrote this Socratic dialogue to address issues of political philosophy, justice and ethics, and framed his ideas around the concept of a utopia.

350 B.C.E.
Aristotle's vision for the role politics can play in creating a virtuous community.

Speech at the Council of Clermont


1095 Pope Urban II ordered the First Crusade.
The Areopagitica
John Milton's appeal to prevent government censoring of writers written during the English Civil War presented a powerful defense of a right of free speech.

Second Treatise of Civil Government
John Locke's vision of government based on natural rights and contract theory where the people have sovereignty.

The Spirit of the Laws
Charles de Montesquieu explains his theory of separation of powers and checks and balances.  Government is not permanent and should depend on the people it governs and their wishes.

Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality
Jean-Jacques Rousseau argues that inequality in men is unnatural and has developed along with modern society.  Private property is a source of inequality.

On Election to Parliament Speech
Edmund Burke's speech argues against unrestrained royal power and for political parties in maintaining opposition to potential abuses by rulers.

The Wealth of Nations
Adam Smith's classic statement about free market capitalism and the concept of an "invisible hand" regulating the marketplace.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen
Inspired by the Enlightenment, the National Assembly of France wrote this as a first step to a French Constitution.

The Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen

Olympe' de Gouges writes about the failure of the French Revolution that had been based on gender equality, but resulted in no change in conditions and status of women.

Olympe de Gouges Historical Biography page


Louis XVI Justification of the Flight to Varennes
Louis XVI (Capet) fled Paris during the French Revolution to in Varennes where he and his court were captured. This document was used to show the French that Louis XVI should not be leading the country.

Rights of Man

Thomas Paine's reply to Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France" asserts that men are born, and always continue, free and equal in respect to their rights.

Go here for an excerpt of Rights of Man

Vindication of the Rights of Women
Mary Wollstonecraft's early feminist statement, argues that women deserve an education because of the essential roles they play in raising children and being companions to their husbands.


Carta de Jamaica (Letter from Jamaica)


1815 In exile, Simon Bolivar argued for a balance of power between the branches of government in the new nations that will emerge in South America after the collapse of the Spanish Empire.
The Iron Law of Wages
Banker and early economist Ferdinand Lassalle claims that wages tend toward the minimum wage necessary to support a worker.

The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns



Benjamin Constant's philosophy that the Liberty of the Ancients was a republican liberty, which meant citizens could directly participate. Liberty of the Moderns meant that liberty was through civil liberties, which the government could not interfere.


Jewish Disabilities Speech
Thomas Macaulay gave this speech to the House of Commons in which he outlines the various civil prejudices that the Jewish population face and encourages emancipation of the Jewish people.

Correspondence on the Actual Value of Opium Delivered to China
Presented to Both Houses of Parliament by the Command of Her Majesty in 1843, this report is a case in which opium transactions are investigated. The case is trying to determine whether or not opium contracts were breached.

An Account of the Opening of the Indian Mutiny
Elisa Greathed's account of Indian soldiers beginning mutiny against the leaders of the East India's Company. The tipping point for the soldiers was when they were forced to bite off paper cartilages for their guns which were greased with pork and beef animal fat against Islam and Hindu beliefs. 

On Liberty

John Stuart Mill argues that people should be free to engage in whatever behavior they wish as long as it does not harm others.  Envisioned constitutional checks by consent of the community instead of a few representatives.


Concentration Camps during the South African / Boer War, 1899-1902
During the South African/Boer War, the British established refugee camps for civilians who were forced out of their homes, however, as the war went on, the refugee camps turned into concentration camps as revealed in these selections from debates in Parliament.

Dulce et Decorum Est
Wilfred Owen's poem describing a gas attack during World War I. The title is translated to "It is sweet and honorable to die for their fatherland".

Treaty of Versailles
The treaty that ended WWI is largely regarded as one of the causes of WWII. The treaty forced Germany to accept all responsibility for the war, disarm, and other aspects that left Germany unhappy.

Peace in Our Time Speech 1938

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin's speech to Parliament after Munich Conference and has come to symbolize the failures of appeasement of Nazi Germany.


September 1, 1939
W.H. Auden wrote this poem at the start of World War II. The poem starts with the failures and frustrations of the past and ends with hope for the future.

England, Your England
George Orwell wrote this essay during the London Blitz, as Nazi planes dropped bombs on the city, seeking to document England and its culture in the event that it is destroyed in the war.

The Iron Curtain Speech 


Joseph Stalin's Response


Winston Churchill gave this speech in Fulton, Missouri to describe the divisions of territory between the Western powers and the Soviet Union.  He condemned the Soviet Union's post-World War II policies.

Stalin responded to the speech in an Interview with the newspaper Pravda 


International Declaration of Human Rights

Written after World War II by the United Nations, the Declaration lists rights that all humans are entitled to under international law.


Link to The Creation of the United Nations 


On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences


1956 Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech to the Twentieth Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He denounced Stalin's "cult of personality," breaking the hold of Stalin over the country.
Two Concepts of Liberty Lecture

Isaiah Berlin wrote that there are two types of liberty: positive and negative. Positive liberty is the ability to have control over one's own life. Negative liberty is the absence of barriers.


Statement at the Rivonia Trial
Nelson Mandela's impassioned statement of his political beliefs at the trial where he was sentenced to life imprisonment where he articulated "an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

Peace, Progress, and Human Rights Speech
Andrei Sakharov's speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his work for human rights in opposition to the leaders of the Soviet Union.

The Power of the Powerless Essay
Vaclav Havel's essay about how life in Communist societies creates the conditions for revolt by dissidents and includes strategies for those who are united by a common cause.

The Fifth Modernization Essay
Wei Jingsheng urges China to adopt democracy as a way to modernize its society; he was convicted of political counterrevolutionary by the government and imprisoned from 1978 to 1993.

Nobel Peace Price Lecture
Lech Walesa's speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for his work as for the right of workers to organize in Poland.

Human Rights in China Speech
Fang Lizhi was a Chinese astrophysicist and political activist who wrote about bringing democracy to China before and after the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989.

In Good Faith Essay
Salman Rushdie's essay in which he affirms his respect for Islam as a religion despite a death sentence issued for him for Iranian clerics.

Latin America: The Democratic Option Speech

Mario Vargas Llosa's speech as a Presidential candidate in Peru in 1990 calling for privatization, a market economy, free trade, and most importantly, the dissemination of private property.


Arab Human Development Report 


Reports written by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and the United Nations on the conditions and freedoms of people in Arab countries.

Malala Yousafzai Noble Peace Prize Lecture  2014 A Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai was 17 years-old when she gave this speech opposing terrorists and urging education for young girls everywhere in the world.



 Add Discussion


This site seems to have many of the documents, not all!

worldhistoryteacher Apr 12, 2011





on election to parliament speech

worldhistoryteacher Apr 12, 2011



England, Your England

worldhistoryteacher Apr 12, 2011

This is a link to the essay:
Note: This says "your" not "our."




peace, progress, and human rights

worldhistoryteacher Apr 12, 2011

Can be found here:


maloyr Apr 15, 2011

Thank you so much. I added this resource to the primary sources in world history page. bob maloy


Fang Lizhe, Human Rights Speech

worldhistoryteacher Apr 12, 2011

Here is a copy from Diane Ravitch's _Democracy Reader_:


Arab Human Development Report 2002

worldhistoryteacher Apr 12, 2011


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