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Types of Primary Sources Related to Racism & Immigration

There are many types of primary sources that illustrate the history of racism and immigration in Canada. Here are a few examples:


Mining Secondary Sources for Primary Source Ideas

Skimming journal articles and book chapters with a careful eye for mentions of primary sources can provide you with useful leads:

  • Examine footnotes carefully - Are there any sources cited with publication dates that align with the time of the events under discussion? If so, these are primary sources.
  • Study the article text for key organizations and individuals - Does the source mention any groups or people key to the events? If so, they may have published documents that could help your research.

HANDS ON: Quickly skim the first few pages of this journal article, paying close attention to the footnotes.

  • What types of primary sources can you identify in the footnotes?
  • How can you tell the difference between the primary and secondary sources?

Primary Source Collections Related to this Course

The following collections are good starting points for finding documents related to this course. For a more exhaustive list of Canadian primary source collections, visit the Primary Sources for Canadian History tab of this research guide. 

Canadiana Online: Includes early government documents/legislation, some early newspapers, religious tracts and special interest group publications of various kinds. Best for topics up to the early 20th century. 

Historical newspapers: Newspapers are an accessible form of primary source for those new to this type of research. MRU provides access to numerous papers, including some dating back to the mid-19th century (Toronto Star, Globe and Mail) and earlier.

Historical Debates of the Parliament of Canada (Hansard): Includes all verbatim accounts of all debates of the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons from the first session in 1867 to 1994 (House of Commons) and 1996 (Senate). 

Peel's Prairie Provinces: Documents the settlement and development of the Canadian West, with a focus on Alberta, and dating back to the earliest days of exploration in the region. A good source of political and special interest related tracts and pamphlets (e.g. social reform and temperance organizations). 

Primary Sources On Canadian Immigration History: Provided by Memorial University, includes a curated list of historical newspapers from various Canadian ethnic groups, along with other immigration and immigrant-related collections e.g., African Canadians, Irish immigration, Asian Canadians and more. 

University of Calgary Digital Collections - Includes useful sources on the history of  Alberta, including early newspapers, legal history and a local history book collection. For best results, limit your search to only the most relevant collections for your topic. 

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive: Books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines and manuscripts relating to slavery and abolition. Note that this is a very large international collection - used advanced search features to narrow searches.

MRU LibrarySearch: Great source for diaries, letters, speeches, travelogues, slave narratives, and many other types of primary documents that have been collected in book form. Try adding the term sources to other relevant search terms, e.g., sources immigration canada, or a term that describes a specific type of source, e.g.,  speeches, diaries, correspondence etc.

Pro Tip

In LibrarySearch, use the advanced search to search for primary source-related terms in the subject field by using the drop-down menus:

General Search Tips for Finding Primary Sources
  • Try Google: Add "primary sources" or "primary documents" to a Google search.
  • When searching WITHIN electronic primary source collection (for example, within any of the collections listed earlier on this page), use terminology common to the historical period you are researching, rather than the modern terms. E.g “Great War” versus "World War I," or  “Dominion Day” versus “Canada Day.” This also applies to terminology relating to racialized groups. 
  • Think of groups that may have created or preserved documents related to your topic. Check to see if they have an online archive.



New to Primary Source Research? Watch This

Primary Sources for History

Video Chapters
1:42 - General tips for finding primary sources
4:03 - Finding primary sources in MRU LibrarySearch
5:29 - Finding primary sources via Google
6:55 - Finding primary sources via MRU History Guide, including historical newspapers


Visit the Primary Sources tab of this guide for more advice and access to MRU's digital primary source collections. 

Finding Secondary Sources for Canadian History

  • LibrarySearch: This is the main search tool for finding books and journal articles at MRU. 
  • America History & Life: Use this database to search history-specific journals with a focus on North American history. Try the advance search screen for useful options, including limiting a search to articles discussing a specified historical period.
  • Google Scholar: Use the "cited by" option to find sources citing a particular article. Make sure to adjust and save your Google Scholar settings to link you to Mount Royal University, for the best access to full-text content at MRU.
  • Interlibrary Loan: Place an interlibrary loan request for books and journal articles you discover that are not available in full-text at MRU.
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