A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

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Document Collections

Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive


The Massachusetts Historical Society has digitized the letters between Abigail and John Adams, John’s diary and autobiography. This is a rich, searchable resource enabling the researcher to tap the economic, political, and social history of three decades of that generation of the family.

American Archives


A database of the contents of Peter Force’s compilation of booklets, pamphlets and newspaper articles pertaining to 1774-76. These primary sources can be searched in a variety of ways, including thematically.

The American Colonist’s Library—A Treasury of Primary Documents


This is a comprehensive collection of public documents that relate to colonists’ lives. These, of course, include Parliamentary legislation.

American Memory from the Library of Congress


This rich compendium of primary sources includes broadsides from the Revolutionary era, journals of the Continental Congress, the Papers of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. American Memory also includes the Slavery and the Courts collection (slavery in the colonies).

The Avalon Project at Yale Law School


This is a very rich collection including documents from history focusing on law and diplomacy from around the world. The 18th century category is particularly strong in the American Revolution with American resolutions and Parliamentary legislation.

Boston Public Library Electronic Resources


This very rich resource is the gateway to America’s Historical Newspapers, Early American Imprints (Shaw and Shoemaker), among others. It also offers access to JSTOR, a database of journal articles. A BPL library card is required, but easy to obtain.

British Library: Treasures in Full, Magna Carta


View and learn about the Magna Carta, the 13th-century document that inspired colonists in America almost six centuries later.

British Library: Online Gallery, The American Revolution


Items held at the British Library include those related to the American Revolution. This feature makes use of several pieces from the collection to investigate the course of the revolution and its impact not only on America and Britain, but on and the rest of Europe as well.

Colonial Williamsburg Research Division


This part of the Colonial Williamsburg website offers a digital library that includes manuscript collections for Virginia Revolutionary figures such as Peyton Randolph. Also, the digital library offers an indexed collection of the Virginia Gazette and 17th- and 18th-century probate inventories from York County.

Elizabeth Murray Project


Elizabeth Murray was a Boston retailer and importer of goods from the 1750s-1770s. Her status as a businesswoman entangled her in the American Revolution. The project consists of digitized correspondence, legal documents, and newspapers ads and articles in both manuscript form and transcriptions.

Famous American Trials – The Boston Massacre Trials


Part of a larger series that uses court documents in the form of depositions, lawyers’ summations, etc., this is a very rich set of primary sources that are organized for easy accessibility.

Geography of Slavery in Virginia


This is a searchable collection of 4,000 newspaper advertisements for runaway slaves and indentured servants in Maryland and Virginia from 1734 to 1804. Also includes some court records and slaveholder records.

George Washington Papers at University of Virginia


This website is a good complement to the more complete Library of Congress collection. This includes selected documents penned by Washington. But it also has a full text collection of articles on Washington written by scholars.

Gunston Hall Probate Inventory Database


The website for George Mason’s Gunston Hall Plantation offers over 300 transcribed probate inventories from 1740-1810. Probate inventories can offer students insight into daily life, differences in social class, etc.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook


These documents are from the American Independence section of a huge compendium of documents created and maintained by Paul Halsall at Fordham University.

John Adams Library at the Boston Public Library


The library of John Adams includes over 2,700 volumes collected during his lifetime as well as hundreds of additional books later donated by his family. The Adams Library remains one of the largest original early American libraries still intact. The collection is of particular interest to scholars and historians because Adams recorded thousands of interpretive and critical manuscript annotations in the margins of his books. Transcriptions of many of Adams’s annotations can be made available by contacting the library.

Thomas Jefferson Paper: An Electronic Archive


One of the most important collections at the Massachusetts Historical Society, The Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts consists of thousands of pages of Jefferson’s correspondence, manuscripts of writings, and voluminous records of Monticello including account books, journals, and more than 400 architectural drawings.

The National Archives of the United States: The Charters of Freedom


Part of the National Archives, this site provides information and images on several important American documents including the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

National Archives (UK)


As the UK government’s official archive, the National Archives collections span 900 years of history. The website includes research modules that teach how to research family and local history as well as how to handle and care for documents.

Our Documents


This initiative is a cooperative effort among National History Day, The National Archives and Records Administration, and USA Freedom Corps. The goal of this website is to promote the study, discussion, and understanding of 100 milestone documents in American history.

USGenWeb Archives Pension Project


Pension records and rosters are offered in varying degree of detail depending on the state. This website is evolving and developers are still looking for volunteers to coordinate records from certain states.

Teacher/Student Resources



The site offers digitized antiquarian books on the Revolution and includes a deep reservoir of Loyalist military records and perspectives.



This is a terrific blog, updated daily by J.L. Bell. It is subtitled “history, analysis and unabashed gossip about the start of the American Revolution in Massachusetts.” It is a great source of information, book reviews, and notices of programs and conferences.

Classics of American Colonial History


This is an impressive collection of scholarly articles from the early twentieth century featuring articles from journals such as the American Historical Review, William and Mary Quarterly, and Journal of Negro History.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation: The Principles of Freedom


Here one can find background information, digital images, and transcriptions of Patrick Henry’s Resolutions, the Declaration of Independence, and other Revolutionary War era documents from the foundation’s collections.



An e-journal of high quality, this quarterly of early American history is full of articles written by prominent scholars, museum professionals, and educators. For example, the October 2007 issue included an article by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich about Betsy Ross in historical memory entitled “How Betsy Ross Became Famous.”



Using the research involved in the development of the book and film A Midwife’s Tale as a case study, DoHistory looks at the 200 year-old diary of New England midwife Martha Ballard. The site includes a History Toolkit where one can learn the basic skills and techniques for interpreting primary source documents and other fragments that survive from any period in history.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History


This organization offers high-quality educational material for teachers, students, historians, and the public. The teaching module on the Revolutionary War includes images and transcriptions of relevant primary source documents, visual aids, lesson plans, and resources.

Leslie Brock Center for the Study of Colonial Currency


This site includes numerous pamphlets and other writings from the 18th century on currency as well as essays on the subject by contemporary scholars.

Library of Congress: Discovering American Memory Online Workshop


Part of the American Memory historical collection at the Library of Congress, this online workshop offers engaging activities for teachers and students to learn to analyze primary documents, graphics and sound recordings.

The Online Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies


The site includes Loyalist regimental histories, orderly books, correspondence, and records of spy courts martial and civilian property claims.

Clements Library: Spy Letters of the American Revolution


The Clements Library at the University of Michigan presents this online exhibit, which focuses on the spy networks used before and during the American Revolution by the Patriots.

William and Mary Quarterly Book Reviews


The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture sponsors this archived collection of book reviews from the premier journal of early America.

Lesson Plans and Web Resources

American Revolution Digital Learning Project


This site is a digital resource learning and new media initiative produced by the New-York Historical Society. The web-based program aims to enrich teaching and learning in K-12 classroom history curricula.

The Bostonian Society


The Teacher Resources page of this website includes lesson plans, additional documents related to the Boston Massacre, and an interactive Boston Massacre game developed for upper elementary and middle school students.



From the National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with the National Trust for the Humanities and the Verizon Foundation, EDSITEment offers teacher resources from some of the world’s great museums, libraries, cultural institutions, and universities. This page features links to lesson plans and websites for grades K-12 related to Colonial America and the New Nation.

Library of Congress: Lesson Plans from The Learning Page


Part of the Learning Page published by the Library of Congress, this page features resources and lesson plans designed to help students analyze primary source documents.

Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities: Mass Moments


The Teachers’ Features component of this site contains lessons developed around electronic collections of stories from Massachusetts history for 365 days of the year.

The National Archives of the United States Teaching With Documents: Lesson Plans


This section contains teaching ideas using reproducible copies of primary documents from the holdings of the National Archives, teaching activities correlated to the National Standards, and cross-curricular connections.

National Humanities Center: Teacher Professional Development Program


This program offers online resources, including a library of seminar toolboxes that are designed to improve teaching and learning in history and literature. The toolboxes are built around content common to standards across the country and seek to enrich the classroom experience by promoting inquiry-based teaching and analysis of primary documents.

Television and Film

PBS: Africans in America


A companion to the PBS TV series, this site includes information about the African American experience during the American Revolution. Part two of the four-part PBS series focused on black participation on both sides. The site has documents and scholarly opinion. Among the highlights are a discussion of the issue of slavery during the 18th century and excerpts from the writings of Venture Smith, Lucy Terry Prince, and Phillis Wheatley.

PBS: American Experience | John and Abigail Adams


This is the companion website for the 2006 PBS film, which includes an explanation of John Adams’s philosophy regarding the revolution, as well the comments annotated in his copy of Mary Wollstonecraft’s “An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution.” This site also includes teacher resources, maps, timelines, and audio excerpts from correspondence between John and Abigail Adams.

PBS: American Experience | Patriots Day


This film explores the reenactment of the events that took place at the Battle of Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775. In addition to timelines, maps and a teacher’s guide, special features include excerpts from the diaries of the re-enactors and tips on creating your own reenactment.

PBS: Liberty! The American Revolution


This award-winning documentary tells the story of the birth of the American Republic and the struggle of a loosely connected group of states to become a nation. Some highlights of the website include headlines from the papers in several colonial cities, lesson plans, and a Road to Revolution game. A companion website to the six part series provides basic information on war including videos of scholars featured in the television series.

PBS: Thomas Jefferson


A companion site to the film by Ken Burns, the archives section contains some of Thomas Jefferson’s most important writings, including all of his known drafts of the Declaration of Independence.

HBO: Teaching John Adams


This site has free downloadable teacher and student guides to accompany the 2008 seven-part miniseries based on David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book. Many of the Adams documents used as the basis for the film came from the Massachusetts Historical Society collections.

Frameworks and Standards

American Historical Association Benchmarks for Professional Development in Teaching of History as a Discipline


From the largest historical association in the United States, this site contains benchmarks for collaboration, content, historical thinking, pedagogy and assessment.

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks


The latest curriculum framework documents for the commonwealth are available for download in all subject areas for grades K-12, including History and Social Science. Departments of Education in all states have similar sites.

National Center for History in the Schools: National Standards for History


Here, one can access the National Standards for History, voluntary standards that have been designed to serve as a guide to over 30 states that have developed state standards for grades K-12. Standards in U.S. and World History, as well as in Historical Thinking, are addressed. Many organizations have relied on these in the development of content for their own lesson plans, including the Library of Congress and the National Park Service.

National Council for History Education


The National Council for History Education is a non-profit corporation that is dedicated to promoting the importance of history in schools and in society. History’s Habits of the Mind, outlined on this site, are the analytical and intellectual skills involved in historical analysis.

National Council for the Social Studies: Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies


Founded in 1921, the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) is the largest association in the country devoted solely to social studies education. This page provides a table of contents and ordering information for The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. Within this document are ten thematic strands that form the basis of the social studies standards. These are explained and examples of questions that are asked within each thematic strand are given, as well as brief overviews of the application of each strand in the early grades, middle grades, and high school. Additionally, the “Your Classroom” section of the NCSS web site includes articles from the Teaching with Documents series that are available free online to NCSS members.

The National History Project


Based at Illinois State University, this site brings together a good deal of material from other sites along with original material: History’s Habits of the Mind, key themes in history, document analysis, and ideas for “Doing History.”

Funding from the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati supported enhancements to this website.

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