What are Primary Literary Sources?

Primary sources are the pieces of evidence that historians use to learn about people, events, and everyday life in the past. Just like detectives, historians look at clues, through evidence, and reach conclusions. Diaries, letters, certificates of birth, death, or marriage, deeds, contracts, constitutions, laws, court records, tax records, census records, wills, inventories, treaties, report cards, medical records, passenger lists, passports, visas, naturalization papers, and military enlistment or discharge papers can be considered as primary sources.

1. Letters

A form of correspondence between people with a first-hand account of events, feelings, or stories. Letters are often personal in nature, but they can also be more formal. The officials and unofficial letters are important sources to get knowledge of contemporary events.

2. Memoirs

Baburnama is the name given to the memoirs of Babar, founder of the Mughal Empire. It reflect the nature and personality of Babaur. Tuzuk- e-Jahangiri or Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri is the autobiography of Mughal EmperorJahangir (1569-1627). Also referred to as Jahangirnama, Tuzk- e-Jahangiri is written in Persian, and follows the tradition of his great- grandfather. Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘My Experiments with truth’ reveals the important events in his life and the formation of Gandhi’s character from childhood.

3. Court Writings

The Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazal contains regulations in all departments on all subjects and include besides some extraneous matter. It is a valuable and minute statistical account of his empire with historical and other notes. It gives details of Mughal administration and state policies. It covers every aspect of the history of the time. The third volume tells us about the ancestry and the biography of Abul Fazal.

Abbaas Khan Sarwani wrote ‘Tarikh-i-Sher-Shahi. He was related to Sher Shah and worked as a mansabdar of 500 under Akbar. It is more in the nature of an autobiography. Known for his literary taste, he gives a picture of Indo-Muslim society of the early Mughal period. Ahmad Yadgar was the author of Tarikh-i-Shahi or Tarikh-i-Salatin-i-Afghina. It was Daud Shah, the last prince of the Afghan race in India.

4. Private Records

Private Archives Section has in its custody a rich collection of private papers of eminent persons who have contributed immensely in various fields of public life in India. These papers have been acquired mainly through donations and gifts from individuals and institutions across the world. They are an important source to supplement the information contained amongst the public records. Some of the most important private papers in archives are those of Mahatma Gandhi, Rajendra Prasad, Dadabhai Naoroji, P.D. Tandon, Maulana Azad, Minoo Masani, Sardar Patel, K.D.Malaviya, etc. All these private papers are accessible as per provisions contained in the Public Records Rules, 1997 or conditions as laid down by the donor at the time of their donation to the National Archives of India.

5. Dairies

A diary would be considered a primary source. As a historian the use of primary sources is essential to building an argument that can cite these primary sources as direct examples that can support or refute a thesis. The diaries of the British officers compiled in ‘India during the raj: eyewitness accounts Diaries and Related Records’ held at the British Library, London, covered good evidence on contemporary issues. They reveal the extent to which the Mutiny shook British power in India, particularly in the north and the centre. Providing insights into the ways in which Britain contributed a more complex conservative system of government with a Civil Service, Viceroy and Governors, aiming to be fair and efficient, these source materials allow scholars to study how this process was received and how successfully it was implemented.

6. Government Documents

Official records have been found relating to the history of the Turko-Afghan and the Mughal rule in the India. These are obviously the most valuable and reliable source materials for the said period. But due to lack of proper upkeep and several other reasons much of them did not reach us. The Factory Records, as the name indicates, are records of the commercial establishments of the East India Company in Western India from Sind in the North to Tellicherry on the Malabar Coast. Factory also included Commercial Residency, Mahi Commercial Residency, etc. Factory and Residency Records mainly register the business transactions of the Company, but incidentally refer to Political events in the country. A document officially written by the government, like treaties and executive orders, usually spelling out rules and laws. The constitution of India is one example of a government document.

7. Newspaper Article

A journalist’s written account of an event. Newspapers or magazines can be local, regional, or national in circulation, so it’s important to keep in mind how many readers a newspaper article may actually have reached, and who the intended audience was for the information given in the article

8. Records of the Historical Families and Private Papers

The State of Maharashtra is rich in archival material. Many historical families have in their possession voluminous record depicting the velour of their ancestors. Family legends imperial and royal deeds, public and private correspondence, and state papers in possession of the descendants of men once high in authority, law suits and law decisions, account papers and manuscripts of every description in Persian and Modi bring to light unknown events in the history of a country. These records are preserved for posterity. They are indexed or catalogued and made available for research to scholars and students.

9. Interview

Interview conducted with a person to find out more information about an event or that person’s life and decisions. Interviews can be conducted one on one, or they can be done in a press conference format. An interview can be recorded and then transcribed to create a written record of the audio.

10. Questionnaire

A questionnaire is a research instrument consisting of a series of questions for the purpose of gathering information from respondents. Within social science research and practice, questionnaires are most frequently used to collect quantitative data using many scales. Questionnaire is a set of questions. Generally it is mailed to the respondents of collecting data. It is employed when the area of study is wide and the subjects are widely dispersed. In this method the researcher does not collect the data by himself.

11. Maps and Photo Copies

There are about 20,000 old maps relating to Bombay Presidency and other provinces. Survey operations started vigorously in this Province from 1820. Copies of the maps prepared from that period to date of the districts of Bombay Presidency, surrounding areas and of the Mumbai Island are found in this collection. Majority of the maps have been prepared by the Survey of India. Plans of Indian Railway Lines since the inception of Railways in India have been added to this collection.

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