Often, the best work arises from close engagement with a primary source. As you read, you'll think of questions or begin to shape an argument. The hard part is to find a primary source that addresses the broad general area of interest. Here are some strategies for finding primary sources:
National Archives of the United Kingdom -- many Churchill-era papers are digitized and available for free download
British Foreign Office United States correspondence, 1938-1945: guide to the Scholarly Resources microfilm edition of the Public Record Office collection, text, F.O. 371. Wilmington, Del. : Scholarly Resources, c1979. E183.8.G7 B73 MICROFORM SET AVAILABLE FROM CENTER FOR RESEARCH LIBRARIES VIA INTER-LIBRARY LOAN.
British Foreign Office United States correspondence, 1946-1948 [microform]
Printed guide: Firestone Microforms E183.8.G7B74
"These files contain the dispatches, instructions, reports, memoranda, and other communications that flowed between the Foreign Office and the British embassy and consulates in the United States. The documents give a detailed view of British diplomacy at work and offer much information, gathered by a highly trained diplomatic corps, on internal political, economic, and social affairs in the United States. This microfilm edition, published through exclusive arrangement with the British Public Record Office, faithfully reproduces the organization and content of the Foreign Office Files."
Foreign Office files--United States of America. Series one, USA, politics and diplomacy, 1960-1974 [microform] : (Public Record Office class FO 371, American Department, United States and FCO files from 1967 onwards).
Incomplete contents: pt. 1. The John F. Kennedy years, 1960-1963 : PRO class FO 371/148576-148649, 156435-156516, 162578-162648, 168405-168491 -- pt. 2. The Lyndon B. Johnson years, 1964-1968 : PRO class FO 371/174260-174346, 179557-179622, 184995-185056, and FCO 7/738-884 (reels 27-56).
Firestone Microforms Services (Film) MICROFILM 12020
British documents on foreign affairs--reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print. Part II, From the First to the Second World War. Series C, North America, 1919-1939 / general editors, Kenneth Bourne and D. Cameron Watt ; editor D.K. Adams.
Firestone Library (F) Oversize JZ633 .B753 1986q
Foreign relations of the United States
A major source of primary material on US foreign relations is:
Foreign relations of the United States. Department of State, United States of America. Washington : US G.P.O.
Firestone Library: Non Circulating (Fnc) KZ231 .U534
Some volumes from the 1950s and 1960s are also available on microfiche at:
Government Documents Collection (DOCS) Call Number: S 1.1
There are several online versions of parts or all of this series:
"The Foreign Relations of the United States series presents the official documentary historical record of major US foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity. The series, which is produced by the State Department's Office of the Historian, began in 1861 and now comprises more than 350 individual volumes. The volumes published over the last two decades increasingly contain declassified records from all the foreign affairs agencies." [from the State Dept. website]
On the history of FRUS, see also http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus-history.
Indexes publications of the U.S. Congress such as hearings, committee reports, documents and prints. Material is available in microfiche and/or electronic. Essential tool for doing legislative history research. Includes Congressional Research Reports from 1916 to the present, U.S. Serial Set from 1789-1969, Annals of Congress from 1789-1824, Register of Debates from 1824-1837, Congressional Globe from 1833-1873, and Congressional Record from 1873-1997.
Also includes the U.S. Serials Set, a collection of U.S. Government publications compiled under the directive of Congress. Includes Congressional reports and documents as well as executive agency and departmental reports ordered to be printed by Congress.
Public papers of the presidents of the United States. Washington: Federal Register Division, National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1929-2005, 2009
Firestone Library: Non Circulating (Fnc): J80 .U577; also online at http://www.heinonline.org/HOL/Index?index=presidents/pubpapers&collection=presidents. (For FDR see http://www.heinonline.org/HOL/Index?index=presidents/ppafdr&collection=presidents.)
Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations (1789-present) in ProQuest Congressional
Executive Branch Documents (1789-1939) in ProQuest Congressional
New Deal and World War II: President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Office Files and Records of Federal Agencies, 1933-1945 in ProQuest History Vault
Foreign Broadcast Information Service
FBIS, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, is a service provided by the US government that translates foreign news broadcasts into English. The service began during WWII and is ongoing. In addition, JPRS, the Joint Publications Research Service, was an auxiliary service to FBIS from 1953-1995.
Access to FBIS Daily Reports:
Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports (1941-1996)
For 1994 onwards, use World News Connection
FBIS Daily Reports 1952-1992 can also be found at RECAP Microfilm S01854, RECAP PrEx 7.10:FBIS-APA, RECAP PrEx 7.10:FBIS-EEU, and RECAP PrEx 7.10:FBIS-SOV; for 1946-1951 in print in RECAP [14102.914.2 and 14102.914].
Council on Foreign Relations
Princeton's Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library holds the records of the Council on Foreign Relations, "a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and national membership organization dedicated to improving understanding of international affairs by promoting a range of ideas and opinions on United States foreign policy. The Council has had a significant impact in the development of twentieth century United States foreign policy." See Council on Foreign Relations Records, 1918-2006: Finding Aid for more information. Note that the records are closed for 25 years from the date of their creation.
Records of the Council on Foreign Relations, 1921-1951 [microform]
RECAP Microfiche 1637
Printed guide: Firestone Microforms E744 .R426 2007
This is a microform edition of portions of the Council’s records from 1921-1951. Includes Conferences, Study Groups, Meetings, and the War and Peace Project.
U.S. Department of State
See http://libguides.princeton.edu/history/StateDept for more information
U.S. Military Intelligence Reports, 1911-1944 in ProQuest History Vault
U.S. Diplomatic Post Records, 1914-1945 in ProQuest History Vault
First, if what you need in an American paper published before about 1990, is it in one of the large collections of historical newspapers?
A few historical newspapers have stand-alone online archives. Check the Quick Guide to Major Papers.
Didn't find what you need? Check to see if it has been digitized:
Newspaper digitization projects (ICON: International Coalition on Newspapers)
Wikipedia: list of online newspaper archives
Historical U.S. Newspapers Online (libguide at the University of Pennsylvania, lists papers by state)
If you can’t find digital, you probably can find microfilm. There is a list of newspapers held at Princeton in microfilm, arranged by state, athttp://library.princeton.edu/collections/microforms/newspapers/countries/united-states. If we do not have what you need, check Worldcat, then place an Interlibrary Loan request.
If you don’t know what newspapers were published in a particular time/place, check Chronicling America: Newspaper Directory at the Library of Congress. This site also links to many digitized local papers from 1836-1922.
Periodicals Index Online
Periodicals Index Online is an index to a very substantial collection of periodicals in the humanities and social sciences. Either through PIO, or separately, the reader can also access two full-text collections, British Periodicals and Periodicals Archive Online, which provide searchable full-text and page images of hundreds of periodicals of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Readers' Guide (1890+; Select Full Text 1992+)
Indexing and abstracting of the most popular general-interest periodicals published in the United States and Canada, plus the full text of selected periodicals from the late 20th century.
PAIS: Public Affairs Information Service (1915+) Citations to articles, books, reports, and select government documents on U.S. and international public policy issue. Generally considered to be a comprehensive index to policy literature.