Primary Source Readings for American History through the Civil War

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A Brief History

This article contains links to online versions of what we consider the essential primary source readings for students of American History through the Civil War.  Please click on the title of the document to read it.

Digging Deeper

I. Background and Colonial Development, 1500-1763

  1. November 11, 1620: The Mayflower Compact

II. Revolutionary Era: Emergency of Democracy, 1763-1800

  1. July 8, 1775: The Olive Branch Petition
  2. January 10, 1776: Common Sense
  3. July 4, 1776: The United States Declaration of Independence

III. Expansion of American Democracy, 1800-1850

IV. Challenge to Democracy, 1850-1865

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Johnson, Michael P., ed.  Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War: Selected Writings and Speeches, Second Edition.  Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011.

Levy, Peter B.  100 Key Documents in American Democracy.  Westport: Praeger, 1994.


About Author

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history at multiple universities in Ohio and has presented research papers in Europe and North America.