Primary Documents Online - Canada

Canada General

  • Canada: The History Education Network (Then/Hier) - A teacher /education database - It has a directory to primary and secondary resources found in archives, libraries and heritage sites. Note: not all links on this site offer online primary documents. In some cases they only report where print sources can be found – so not too useful if the archive is 500 kilometers distant.
Hudson's Bay Company store on Cordova Street, Vancouver 1888 or 1889 
Wikimedia: Public Domain
  • Modern History Sourcebook: Canada (Fordham) - This page lists a few documents from early Canadian history.
  • Canadian History Research Guide: Primary Sources [Brandon University]
  • Canadian Letters & Images Project (Vancouver Island University) - An archive on the war experience of Canadians from pre-1914 to post-Korea. Stories are told through personal letters, photos, and diaries.
  • Canadiana Online (Includes Early Canadiana) - A collection of books, journals, and government documents, many of which are primary documents. Topics: law, literature, religion, education, gender, and aboriginal history. [TWU login required]
  • Champlain Society Digital Collection - More than a hundred volumes (50,000 pages) on Canadian exploration and discovery, going back to the 1600s. 
  • Democracy at War: Canadian Newspapers & the Second WW - Collection of 144,000 scanned newspaper articles and editorials documenting WWII. See the alert on wartime contraints on news in the sidebar "Information, Propaganda, Censorship, and Newspapers". See also tabs to 'Canada and the War', 'Operations', and 'The Holocaust'. 
  • Heritage - One of the collections in the “Canadiana” stable, it features sources spanning the 1600s to the 1900s. Featured subject collections include: Genealogy, Aboriginal History, Government Documents. Military History, and Landmark Papers. Search by keyword, or browse the collection.
  • In Pursuit of Adventure - Fur Trade in Canada (NWCo.) To view the documents choose the Welcome link, then Manuscripts tab at the top, then select the sidebar link "Browse by Title or Search". 
  • Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents 1610-1791  - English translation of the . Field reports to France from the Jesuit mission to French North America.
  • Library and Archives CanadaLAC is home to a gigantic and labyrinthine collection of materials that have been collected for almost 150 years. LAC houses 20,000,000 books; 30,000,000 photos; and 550,000 hours of audio and video media. 

Canada - Government and Statistics

  • Canada Year Book Historical Collection - CYB is a product of Statistics Canada, so relies heavily on the statistical interests of the federal government – economy, finance, culture, families, occupations, etc. Search by keyword, or browse from here.
  • Canadian Constitutional Documents A handy and accessible set of resources that collects dozens of the basic legal documents from Canada's constitutional history. The editor pledges an "every effort has been made" statement of accuracy, but warns the user not to take the resources as gospel. Not maintained since 2011.
  • Canadiana Government Publications - 1.7 millioin pages of documents: government acts, bills, committee reports, court rules, debates, journals, ordinances, a selection of official publications from France and Great Britain, sessional papers, regulations, royal commission reports, voter’s lists and treaties..
  • Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources - Debates, Bills, Votes
  •  Historical Statistics of Canada  This Government of Canada page contains >1000 statistical tables on the “social, economic and institutional conditions of Canada from…1867 to the mid-1970s”. 
  •  History of Federal Electoral Ridings Since 1867 - A comprehensive Government of Canada site that let's you search by riding name, name of a candidate, political party, general election, and by-election for all federal elections back to Confederation.
  • Primary Documents - Database of historical documents related to the drafting and adoption of the Canadian Constitution.

British Columbia

  • The British Columbia Reports - This series contains the full text of all judgments and decisions made by the Law Society of BC, 1884-1948.
  • Colonial Disatches - Correspondence between the British Colonial Office and the colonies of Vancouver Island & British Columbia, 1846-1871. "Search" by text, or "Browse" by date. See the related "The Governor's Letters" educational site (http://govlet.ca/en/tgIntro.php) for some hints on using the letters.
  • Fort Victoria Post Journal -  The digitised transcription of the daily work, weather, and activities of the officer in charge of Fort Victoria, Roderick Finlayson, from 1846-50
  • Okanagan Valley History (Digitized Okanagan History) - A collection of primary documents and photographs from Okanagan Valley archives and museums.
  • Up and Down the Coast - Records of United Church missions to First Nations in BC. It is a small collection of 179 documents from the United Church Archives. Search the “Documents” link.


  • Peel’s Prairie Provinces - Canadian prairie history and culture – PPP contains 7500 books, 67000 newspaper issues, 16000 postcards, and 1000 maps.


  • BAnQ (Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec) - BAnQ's goal: to digitize all of the records of Quebec’s heritage. Cover pages are available in English (right click); documents are in French.

Photograph of  Dr. Frederick Banting and Dr. Charles Best, discoverers of insulin
Drs. Banting & Best
& an Unnamed Colleague
Image: Library & Archives Canada / C-001350

BC Points to the Past- Searchable Primary Documents

Twenty-seven searchable collections of primary source materials: maps, photos, newspapers, manuscripts, pamphlets, portraits, sermons, poems, etc. Note that because it is provided through BC Government funding, access is limited to residents of British Columbia.

Browse by collection (all 27 collections)

  • Gale Artemis: Primary Sources - This unique platform provides an unprecedented, seamless research experience that helps scholars find a starting point, search across a wide array of materials and points in time, and discover new ways to analyze information. 
  • Chatham House Online Archive - The Chatham House Online Archive: the publications and archives of the Royal Institute of International Affairs is a multi-disciplinary resource bringing a 20th and 21st century world perspective to researchers and students. 
  • Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive - Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive is a historical archive that embraces the scholarly study of slavery in a comprehensive, conceptual, and global way. Once completed, this digital collection will comprise five million pages of documents selected by a renowned board of scholars. 
  • State Papers Online - The largest digital manuscript archive of its kind, State Papers Online, 1509-1714 gathers together 16th- and 17th- century British State Papers and links these rare historical manuscripts to their fully text-searchable calendars. 
  • Gale NewsVault - Gale News Vault delivers single-point access to Gale’s ever-growing collection of historical newspapers and periodicals — currently more than 12 million digitized facsimile pages from newspapers and periodicals around the world.
  • British Literary Manuscripts Online - This extensive digital archive includes hundreds of thousands of pages of rare manuscripts, poems, plays, essays, novels, diaries, journals, correspondence, and other manuscripts from the year 1100 through the Victorian era. 
  • U.S. Declassified Documents Online - Focusing on the United States, this collection provides direct information on the critical policies and events of post World War II era, including reports from Cabinet meeting minutes, National Security Council policy statements, CIA intelligence studies, presidential conferences, State Department political analyses, and Joint Chiefs' papers.
  • World History Commons - An open educational resource with peer-reviewed content for world and global history teachers, scholars, and students. This website provides more than 1,700 annotated primary sources, 100 teaching guides, 30 overviews of methods and approaches, and 250 website reviews.

1923 Chinese Exlusion Resources -  List of resources about early Chinese Canadian history, in particular about  the 1923 Chinese Immigration Act in Canada (more commonly known as the Chinese Exclusion Act).

Historical Newspapers: Canadian

Canada - Historical News

Western Clarion Newspaper

Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain
  • BC Historical Newspapers (The Province, 1894-2010; The Times Colonist, 1884-2010; The Vancouver Sun, 1912-2010). Browse by date or search by keyword. Note that the database is untitled, but is focused on these three newspapers.
  • British Colonist 1858-1920 - 60+ years of provincial news. Published in Victoria, it was the premier newspaper in BC until the end of the 19th century
  • British Columbia Historical Newspapers -  A collection of community and regional newspapers from around the province. Browse by name or date.
  • Canada Gazette - The "official newspaper of the government of Canada". You can begin by choosing the "Search the Canada Gazette" tab access issues from 1841-1997 (see the archives for post-1997 papers). The Gazette is not a newspaper as commonly understood. It publishes 'official' news such as treaties, hearings, proclamations, patents, regulations, applications for divorce, etc.
  • Early Alberta Newspapers 
  • Nova Scotia Historical Newspapers - A collection of 12 Nova Scotia newspapers from the 18th - 20th centuries. Most are short or intermittent runs, but the Acadian Recorder has forty years of scanned pages. Several Gaelic titles.
  • Ontario Community Newspapers Portal - Our Ontario is a portal to the newspapers of several dozen Ontario towns and communities. Coverage varies since not all titles are scanned in full text. See also links to "INK" and to "non-Ontario" newspapers.
  • Peel's Prairie Provinces - For historical news links choose the "Find Newspapers" tab.
  • Southern Alberta Newspaper Collection - A collection of local news from 15 papers (dates from as early as late-18th century to the mid-20th century.

"Picture Post" Historical Archive

Picture Post was a popular social, political, and cultural photojournalism magazine published weekly in Britain from 1938-1957

    Cover of the Picture Post dated 21 September 1940. Caption: Camouflage - a home guard learns a lesson in cover at Osterley Park Training School
Over nearly two decades it published almost one thousand issues
As an historical resource it provides journalistic coverage of events in Britain and abroad, and provides a good single-source snapshot of how current events were depicted by a liberal and populist source during the mid-20th century
Go to the BC Points to the Past and choose the 'Picture Post Historical Archive' icon.

Media History: Primary Resources

Media History Digital Library

More than a million digitized pages of text and images from media trade papers and fan magazines.
Search using the "Collections Gateway" in the right sidebar.
   modern screen cinematographie
Image (left) from the Fan Media Collection
Image (right) from the Global Cinema Collection

Primary Sources in Paper

Student in library stacks
The library has many hundreds of print books that contain thousands of primary resources.
Go here to see a list of titles (arranged chronologically, with subheadings by topic).
Call numbers are included.
You will have to physically examine these texts to assess their contents.
Some examples of Canadian primary documents in print:
“A Country Nourished on Self-Doubt”
FC 18.C68 2003
“A Few Acres of Snow” 
FC 18.F49 2003
Alberta, Aberhart, and Social Credit
FC3674 .A43 1975
Canada: A Portrait in Letters 1800-2000
FC89 .C355 2003
Canada’s Founding Debates
FC472 .C354 2003
Canadian History in Documents 1763-1966
FC 163.C35 1966
Canadian Women on the Move 1867-1920
HQ1453 .C37 1983
English Immigrant Voices: Labourers’ Letters from Upper Canada
FC3071.1.A1 E54 2000
Family Life and Sociability in Upper & Lower Canada 1780-1870
HQ559 .N64 2003
Fort Langley Journals 1827-1830
FC3849.F64 A23 1998
Fraser Gold 1858! The Founding of British Columbia
FC3822.4 .S74 1998
Free Trade, Annexation, and Reciprocity, 1846-54
FC479.R4 C76 1971
It Made You Think of Home: The Haunting Journal of Deward Barnes
D640.B344 A3 2004
File:Vimy Ridge map-April 9-April 12.jpg
Map of Vimy Ridge April 1917
 Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain
Letters of James and Ellen Robb
FC2496.26.R63 A4 1983
Life Writings of Mary B. McQuesten: Victorian Matriarch
FC3098.26.M36 A4 2004
Memoirs of Robert Borden (2v)
FC 556.B76A3 1938a
North of Athabaska: Slave Lake…Documents
1800-1821 FC3212.3 .N667 2001
Peace River Chronicles: Eighty-one Eye-witness Accounts
FC3843.4 .P43 1963
Prairie West to 1905: a Canadian Sourcebook
FC3206 .P73 1975
Seven Eggs Today: the Diaries of Mary Armstrong 1859-1869
FC3097.26.A74 A3 2004
Small Details of Life: Diaries by Women in Canada 1830-1996
FC 26.W6 S63 2002
The Collected Writings of Louis Riel
FC3217.1.R5A2 1985
File:Louis Riel.jpg
Louis Riel
Engraved by Octave-Henri Julien
Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain
The English River Book: a North West Company Journal, 1786
FC3212.3 .E54 1990
The Spirit Lives in the Mind: Omushkego Stories, Lives, and Dreams
E99.C88 B573 2007
The Woman Who Mapped Labrador: …Diary of Mina Hubbard
FC2193.3.H82 A3 2005
Thompson’s Highway: BC’s Fur Trade 1800-1850
FC3821.3 .T885 2006
Town of York: A Collection of Documents of Early Toronto  
FC3097.4 .T692 1962 v.1
Woman Worker 1926-1929
HD6079.2.C2 W664 1999

Primary Sources: Paper Series Titles

[Cover] [Cover] [Cover]

       Titles from the Bedford Series in History & Culture
The Library has several book series (both print and e-Book) that collect primary documents. Each series is made up of individual titles.
Series titles include:
Bedford Series in History and Culture
Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life & Thought 
Canadian History Through the Press 
Classics of Western Spirituality 
Documentary History of American Life 
Documentary History of the Jews in Italy 
John Harvard Library 
Loeb Classical Library 
Manchester Medieval Sources 
Rupert’s Land Record Society 
St. Vladimir’s Seminary Popular Patristics 
Sources of Civilization in the West 
Sources of Early Christian Thought 
Sources of History 
Sources of Medieval History 
Translated Texts for Historians 
To browse the topics in each series use the "title" search option. Another way is to use the catalogue’s “Advanced search” option: enter the name of the series title (e.g. Bedford Series in History and Culture) and select the drop-down option “series (any word)”. This search will display all the titles in that series (there are 10 titles in the Bedford Series).