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WRI 149/150: The Politics of Disease: Finding primary sources

Finding primary sources

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:

Starting points for finding medicine- and disease-related primary sources

  • Literature Arts Medicine Database ( a collection of literature, fine art, visual art and performing art annotations created as a dynamic, comprehensive resource for scholars, educators, students, patients, and others interested in medical humanities.

  • Medicine and Madison Avenue ( Advertising items and publications dating from 1850 to 1920, illustrating the rise of consumer culture and the birth of a professionalized advertising industry in the United States.

  • The Historical Medical Poster Collection (Yale) ( focuses primarily on public health communications, but also has examples of medical product advertising, recruiting, and aid and relief solicitations.

  • Opioid Industry Documents: An archive of millions of documents created by opioid manufacturers and related companies, hosted by the UCSF Library in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University. (

  • Truth Tobacco Industry Documents ( An archive of 14 million documents created by tobacco companies about their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, scientific research and political activities, hosted by the UCSF Library.

  • Drug Industry Documents ( An archive of documents created by major pharmaceutical companies related to their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales and scientific research, hosted by the UCSF Library.

  • Food Industry Documents ( An archive of documents from the food industry related to their manufacturing, operations, regulatory activities, and scientific research, hosted by the UCSF Library.

  • You may also wish to search or browse historical issues of medical journals for articles, op-eds, or advertisements, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association; The New England Journal of Medicine; or the American Journal of Public Health

  • Magazine articles (or advertisements) on medical topics from popular publications like Life, Time, Popular Science, etc. can be really fascinating windows into the popular promotion, reception, or understanding of medical ideas/developments.

Library collections spotlight: primary source material

Additional resources with digital collections