Featured Primary Sources

Imperial Rivalries

Nothing can enrich and enliven our understanding of the nation’s past, or dispel apathy about it, more powerfully than primary sources. The primary sources below open up a variety of viewpoints and have been chosen by master teachers specifically for use in the classroom. Affiliate School members can print a packet that includes an image of the document, photograph, or other resource, a transcript where applicable, text to place the document in historical context, and document-based questions. Additionally, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

Demarcation bull, granting Spain possession of the New World, May 4, 1493.

The Doctrine of Discovery, 1493

Creator: Pope Alexander VI Curriculum Subjects: Geography, Religion and Philosophy, World History Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Expeditionis Hispanorum in Angliam, 1588, by Robert Adams (London, 1590). (LOC)

The Spanish Armada, 1588

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels:

Primary Sources from Other Sub-Eras

Bartolomé de las Casas, Aqui se contiene una disputa .... Vallad, Spain: Casa de

Bartolomé de Las Casas debates the subjugation of the Indians, 1550

Creator: Bartolomé de Las Casas Curriculum Subjects: Art Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Christopher Columbus’ letter to Ferdinand and Isabella, 1493. Gilder Lehrman Col

Columbus reports on his first voyage, 1493

Creator: Christopher Columbus Curriculum Subjects: Geography, World History Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Landing of Christopher Columbus, 1856

Landing of Columbus, 1492

Creator: Martin, Johnson & Co. Curriculum Subjects: Geography, World History Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Recens Edita totius Novi Belgii [New Netherland - New York], 1730. (Gilder Lehrm

Map of the New World, with European settlements and American Indian tribes, 1730

Creator: Matthew Seutter Curriculum Subjects: Geography Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
The Algonquian village of Secotan in present-day North Carolina, an engraving ba

Secotan, an Algonquian village, ca. 1585

Creator: John White Curriculum Subjects: Art Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+