Historical Context and Background Information

Understanding a legal document is more than a matter of reading and analyzing a text. Often it's helpful and, indeed, critical to know something about the context in which a particular event occurred and/or the document was written.

Both primary and secondary sources are used to create historical context. 

Sources for primary resources: Try the History Research Guide. The home page offers lists of primary resources and library databases by geographic area.


Image of the History Research Guide showing primary sources for U.S. history

Sample primary sources:

Historical Context - Legal Materials


HeinOnline is a rich source of historical legal materials. In addition to large collections of law reviews, cases, Congressional materials, Presidential documents, and state legal resources, this database provides a number of specialized libraries of potential interest.

Some representative libraries include: the Pentagon Papers, Civil Rights and Social Justice, and Slavery in America and the World.

ProQuest Congressional provides access to a vast library of government publications.

Some representative collections include Presidential Papers, 1789 onwards, Congressional hearings from 1824, House and Senate reports, 1817 - 

ProQuest History Vault - Primary resource materials.Image of search for the internment of Japanese in the U.S. in the History Vault database.