The Office of the Historian has for many years provided researchers a guide to the accessibility of diplomatic archives around the world, but this is the first time it has been made available on the website. This current list is based on information received from American diplomatic posts abroad, as well as web sources and communication with the archives themselves. The information provided here is subject to change so researchers are advised to contact the government or archive ahead of any planned visit.
While access to the diplomatic records of many countries remains highly restricted, the news is better than ever before with many new countries establishing Freedom of Information Acts to foment better government transparency.
The divide between the developed world and the developing world also affects the state of international archives. Problems of infrastructure inhibit the nature of information dissemination. The amount of information available on the internet varies from country to country and many National Archives and Ministries of Foreign Affairs are still in the process of developing workable websites.
This site does not comment on the state of the records themselves. In addition to the loss of records as a result of changes of government and civil war, the climate has wreaked havoc upon some archives, particularly in tropical regions, whose documents, despite the best efforts of archivists, have been compromised by heat, humidity, flooding, and frequent power outages.
In compiling this database, the Office of the Historian has tried to give researchers a starting place for their inquiries. We have not included anecdotal advice on how to approach any given archive. Countries that do not systematically declassify their documents may require personal contacts to gain access to records of interest. Additionally, compliance with laws that guide freedom of information may vary.
For the most part, diplomatic records are held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (or a similar department) or have been transferred to a National Archive. If that is done systematically, it is usually apparent as to which records are available for viewing. When transfer is not systematic, it is up to the researcher to discover the location of the documents they wish to view as well as to make contact with the relevant archivist.
The Office of the Historian would be happy to receive updated or missing information. Please contact us.
Other relevant websites with useful information on diplomatic archives include: