Thanks to the Internet, students in introductory American government courses now have more access to more research sources than ever before. Stephen Mihm writes at The New York Times:
For generations, biographers have used the same methods to conduct research: they waded through the paper trail left by their subject, piecing together a life from epistolary fragments. Based on what they found, they might troll through newspapers from specific dates in the hope of finding coverage of their subject. There were no new-fangled technologies that promised to transform their research, no way of harnessing machines to reveal new layers of historical truth.That’s all starting to change. Several campaigns to digitize newspapers — Readex’s “America's Historical Newspapers” available by subscription at research universities, or the free “Chronicling America” collection available at the Library of Congress — have the potential to revolutionize biographical research. Newspapers are often described as the “first draft of history,” and thanks to these new tools, biographers can tap them in ways that an earlier generation of scholars could only have dreamed of.
Students may also want to look at other free sources:
- The Founders' Constitution, a extensive collection of writings by the Founders;
- The Interactive Constitution, from the National Constitution Center;
- Archiving Early America, documents from the 18th century;
- American Memory, collections of the Library of Congress;
- Annotated versions of the Declaration of Independence;
- Our Documents, a collection of historical documents such as Jefferson's secret message to Congress on the Lewis & Clark expedition;
- The Avalon Project at Yale, documents in law, history, and diplomacy.