Learn about the beta

World War I and the Department

To commemorate the centenary of the First World War, the Office of the Historian has commissioned a series of studies about Department of State activities during the period of U.S. neutrality (August 1914–April 1917). The research focuses primarily on how Department personnel in Europe responded to the unprecedented challenges they faced as they attempted to protect U.S. citizens, facilitate humanitarian relief efforts, and represent the interests of belligerent states in enemy territory. “War, Neutrality, and Humanitarian Relief: The Expansion of U.S. Diplomatic Activity during the Great War, 1914–1917” will feature the release, in serial fashion over the coming months, of an introductory overview that sets the stage for subsequent chapters on Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and the Balkans, followed by a conclusion. The current series of publications builds upon “Views From the Embassy: The Role of the U.S. Diplomatic Community in France, 1914,” produced in 2014. The material in these publications differ substantially from documentation printed in the Foreign Relations of the United States volumes covering World War I, which focus upon high policy decisions and matters of international law rather than on-the-ground operations. Readers may access Foreign Relations of the United States volumes, such as the 1914, 1915, 1916, and 1917 Supplemental volumes, and the Lansing Papers Volume I and Volume II, through the Office of the Historian website.

To mark the 2014 centenary of the First World War, the Office of the Historian and U.S. Embassy France produced a study about the role of the U.S. diplomatic corps stationed in France during 1914–1918. In contrast to the well known record of U.S. actions after the nation entered the war in April 1917, the stories of U.S. diplomats, consuls, and their family members—particularly during the early months of the crisis (August-December 1914)—were long forgotten, overshadowed by subsequent events of the tumultuous twentieth century. By researching U.S. Government and Government of France records, memoirs, personal papers, and newspaper archives, this study presents a fascinating account of how actions spearheaded by U.S. diplomats—and American citizens—significantly strengthened Franco-American relations in unique, unparalleled ways.

We invite you to read "Views From the Embassy: The Role of the U.S. Diplomatic Community in France, 1914" (PDF, 818 KB), which complements U.S. Embassy France’s WWI Centennial page. Readers may view full copies of several documents referenced in “Views From the Embassy” through links on the Embassy’s WWI Interactive Timeline.

The Office of the Historian is grateful to the following institutions that provided assistance for this project: The American Hospital in Paris; The American Chamber of Commerce in Paris; Columbia Center for Oral History Collection, Columbia University (Reminiscences of DeWitt Clinton Poole Jr.); Harvard University Archives, Harvard University (Robert & Mildred Bliss Papers); Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University (William H. Hunt Papers); The Sheridan Libraries Special Collections, The Johns Hopkins University (John Work Garrett Papers); Western Reserve Historical Society (Myron T. Herrick Papers); Bibliothèque nationale de France; National Archives of France (Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs); Service historique de la défense; U.S. Library of Congress; and the U.S. National Archives (Archives of the Department of State).