Digital Resources for Early Americanists

This post was originally published on 9/15/2015 as part of the Clio I class at George Mason University. 

Below is a sampling of the digital resources that are available to those who study and/or teach Early American history. The list is by no means inclusive, and sometimes the best place to start is a simple Google search. Regardless, this list should give you some ideas to kick start your creative genius. Another great resource is History Matters where you can find more lists of resources sorted by category. The selection of tools is abbreviated on purpose. I suggest that everyone check out DIRT and explore the numerous digital tools available there (Listing only the tools that I thought relevant would run the risk of stifling some very innovative projects). The DIRT directory has organized the tools by category (publishing, data cleaning, visualize, etc.) and contains resources for the novice and professional alike. There are links to both popular publishing resources such as Omeka, Drupal, and WordPress and specific tools such as Map Warper and Juxtapose (the former allows you to rectify historic maps to align with modern maps and the latter is a program that allows users with no technical background to create side by side image comparisons).



The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record

This site contains 1,280 images without interpretation.

19th Century Schoolbooks

This site contains 141 digitized schoolbooks and bibliographic information for more.

Papers of the War Department 1784-1800

This site contains a recreation of the lost papers following the 1800 fire.

American Revolution and Its Era: Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750-1789

This site contains scans of maps from the era.

America’s Historical Newspapers

This site contains a searchable database of historic newspapers.

 America’s Historical Imprints

This site contains a collection of books, pamphlets, and other printed material.

Black Loyalists: Our History, Our People

This site contains many documents detailing the experience of black loyalists. It is also a great teaching resource.

 The Dolley Madison Digital Edition

This site contains a digital version of her papers.

 Making of America

This site is a searchable digital library of material.

Osher Map Library

This site contains a searchable map collection.

Berkeley Digital Map Collection

This catalog of maps contains many links to digital versions.

North American Women’s Letters and Diaries

This site contains a searchable database of documents.

Founders Online

This site contains the papers of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison.

Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive

This site contains digital versions of Jefferson’s papers.

Salem Witch Trials

This site contains documents and maps pertaining to the trials.

Virtual Jamestown

This site includes documents, images, and many other resources.

David Rumsey Map Collection

This contains numerous different maps from many eras.


Teaching Resources:

The Coming of the American Revolution 1764-1776

Black Loyalists: Our History, Our People

This site contains many documents detailing the experience of black loyalists. It is also a great teaching resource.

 Cultural Readings: Colonization & Print in the Americas

This site contains images and some interpretation.

Images of Native Americans

This site contains images from multiple perspectives with interpretation.

Web de Anza

This site provides resources for teaching an often neglect part of Early American history (the Pacific Coast).

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

This site contains letters and other information from different wars. Many prominent historians contributed to this project.

Historical Archaeology and Public Engagement

This site provides links to numerous archaeology and history projects including “Plymouth Colony.”

Within These Walls

This site explores the history that can be learned from a building and the 200 years of living that happened inside of it.

Virtual Jamestown

This site includes documents, images, and many other resources.

Do History

This site is an excellent resource for teaching what it means to “do” history.


General Resources:


The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery Resistance, and Abolition


Colonial Williamsburg

 Native Web

 Common Place

 The Junto




 I am a bit torn on the debate concerning field vs. method. When I think of a field, I envision some type of temporal or geographic constraints. Using this thinking, digital history is a method, much like quantitative analysis. It is a way of analyzing a topic, but it is not a topic in itself (the closest field would be the history of technology). However, Digital History is tricky in that it has the potential to revolutionize the way history is researched, presented, and argued. Given the well worn groves of historical scholarship, this new medium might fit easier as separate discipline. This sounds out there, but what is the difference between the disciplines in the humanities? It usually boils down to the methods being used, the questions being asked, and the preferred way to present them. Sociologists, historians, cultural theorists, and literary scholars can all study the 1960s. What makes their analysis different is their methodology and questions. Is the methodology or research questions of digital history different from history (at least in theory)? Or is digital history simply interdisciplinary (digital humanities)?

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