HIST 464: Topics - Latin American History

Liaison librarian

  • eamon.duffy [at] mcgill.ca (Email) 514-398-4697
  • McGill users only
  • Open access resource
  • Free resource
  • In-library-use only
  • Catalogue record

2013-14: Indigenous Peoples

Finding Secondary Sources

Background Information


  1. Catalogue
    Search for keywords that describe the indigenous group and/or geographic area you are interested in, as well as the word 'history'.
    Example: mayas history
  2. Examine the subject headings of books that seem most relevant, and use them to find others on the same topic.
  3. To find books at other libaries, select 'Libraries Worldwide' in the menu near the Catalogue's search box.


Finding Primary Sources

Secondary sources are often the best places to find primary sources. Take a look at the bibliography of the books and articles on your topic, which will point you to useful and important documents from the period you are studying. The author will likely have done a considerable amount of legwork already. The titles in the background information section listed above also have extensive bibliographies that include primary source material.

Searching for primary sources is more difficult than searching for secondary sources, because the search terms you use must be selected differently. While secondary sources have a specific historiographical purpose - i.e. to recount the history of an event, era, etc. - primary sources are useful almost accidentally. An entire secondary source can be devoted to a topic that is treated only as one of many in a primary source. Therefore, it is important to think more broadly when coming up with search terms. For example, descriptions of indigenous peoples might be noted in a few pages of someone's travel diary of the Americas. It might be necessary to browse or skim several travelogues to find relevant sources, since the title or subject heading of the work might not reflect all of its contents.

Primary Source Collections


The following are useful terms found in subject headings in the library catalogue that can be used to locate potential primary sources.  In the advanced search, enter these terms in the 'subject' filed along with terms specific to your topic.

  • Correspondence
  • Description and travel
  • Diaries
  • Personal narratives
  • Sources



The HathiTrust is a collection of over 10 million digitized books held in major research libraries around the world. Unlike the library catalogue, every book in the HathiTrust is full-text searchable. It is a treasure trove of primary sources. Search using the same subject headings suggested above along with terms specific to your topic.

Government documents

Two important UK and US government document databases provide an official record of these countries' involvement in the extraction/economy/politics of natural resources in Latin America.

Center for Research Libraries

McGill is a member of the Center for Research Libraries, which allows you to access to their vast collection of primary source material on Latin America. You can request any item you find in their catalogue be sent to McGill via Interlibrary Loan.

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