Secondary sources provide an invaluable, scholarly insight of historical documents and events. In a secondary source, a nonparticipant will analyze and interpret events throughout history, building upon existing works and contributing their own thoughts and research. The key difference between an autobiography and biography is firsthand experience—secondary sources are often derived from an interpretation of primary sources.
Primary sources offer a personalized glimpse into the minds and lives of historical figures, actors, and events. While a primary source documents firsthand experience, secondary information elaborates and critiques these works through hindsight. Secondary sources provide academic insight and allow us to both preserve, study and critique, and expand upon the meaning of historical events.
Instructors can supplement textbooks and course materials using a list of secondary sources as guides to illustrate nuances in historical analysis. Society’s interpretation of historical events changes considerably over time, and historians use both primary sources and secondary sources to track these developments. K-12 students and academics can benefit from grasping the meaning and implication of events through analyzing the progression of historical interpretation.
Gale provides a tertiary source for secondary information, acting as an encyclopedia specific to the main content of each lesson. Teachers can use these collections to further analyze primary sources through the lens of supplementary secondary sources, leading students to a deeper understanding of course material. Secondary sources of history allow academics and K-12 students alike to engage with the past as they learn.