European Explorers of America

Primary Sources

Primary Sources

Primary Sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later.


One important primary source is the maps made by mapmakers or explorers of this time period.  Look at this map of the "New World".  Click on the interactive feature and notice the odd or interesting details of the map.

Interactive Map

Follow this link to see an interactive map that serves as a primary source.

Journals and Letters

We are able to learn about many explorers from their journals.  These journals include both the struggles and successes along the journey.Read these two journal excerpts. 

Columbus's Journal

Check out this link to see a journal that belonged to Columbus!

Vasco de Gama's Journal

Here is a link to the journal of Vasco de Gama.

Artifacts can also serve as primary sources.

La Salle Shipwreck Project

The Belle is one of the most important shipwrecks ever discovered in North America. The excavation, conducted in a cofferdam in Matagorda Bay, Texas, lasted almost a year and produced an amazing array of finds, including the hull of the ship, three bronze cannons, thousands of glass beads, bronze hawk bells, pottery and even the skeleton of a crew member.  What is a cofferdam?  A cofferdam is a temporary enclosure built within, or in pairs across, a body of water and constructed to allow the enclosed area to be pumped out, creating a dry work environment for the major work to proceed.  Where was La Salle headed and how was his ship deserted in Texas?