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Stages in the Creation of a Foreign Relations Volume

  • Grand conceptualization: At any given time, Department officers overseeing FRUS devise an organizational scheme for the series as a whole. Compilers of individual volumes (or portions thereof) fit their efforts to this holistic vision. The basic 19th-century structure called for volume releases on an annual basis, soon after the events chronicled, with the chapters organized by country. On occasion, a “special edition” covered a specific topic of sufficient import to warrant a dedicated volume. As the series grew in size and scope over the 20th century, the overarching arrangement changed to cover regions, or a multi-year time period, or a key topic, or a Presidential administration. Again, special cases like the 1919 peace negotiations and World War II conference diplomacy merited separate subseries.
  • Volume conceptualization: Each complier (or team of compilers) must determine the parameters of their individual volume. The 19th-century FRUS grand conceptualization rendered this a straightforward process. In the 20th century, as the volumes offered more in-depth treatment of both policymaking and implementation, compilers often consulted histories, memoirs, and other accounts to inform their collection and selection strategies.
  • Collection: Compilers identify important records to be consulted, search for them, and make copies or take notes of documents likely to be selected for publication, or which provide background information necessary to contextualize the volume. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, these researches only involved Department of State files.
  • Selection: After gathering all relevant materials, compilers choose a subset of the available record for publication. In the 19th century, compilers usually did not opt to reprint documents already included in Supplemental FRUS Submissions transmitted to Congress (see chapter 4 and appendix C). As the 20th century progressed, the number and size of files greatly increased. Consequently, the subset of documents selected comprised a shrinking percentage of the total record.
  • Annotation: As filing systems grew in complexity over time, it became increasingly important to provide the provenance of documents published. In recent decades, annotation has also included significant amounts of information about persons, events, policies, other documents referenced, and attachments. Since the 1960s, compilers have relied on expanded annotation to mitigate the increasing selectivity of the series.
  • Review: One or more Department officials, typically of a higher level of authority than the compiler, review the manuscript for completeness, cohesion, and concision. The review includes judgment of the appropriateness of the content and the accuracy of annotations. In the 19th century, this review might include the highest officers of the Department, and the president as well. In recent decades, volumes typically go through a two-stage review, with a front-line supervisor making recommendations for amendment, followed by a second assessment from the series General Editor or other senior manager in the Office of the Historian.
  • Clearance/Redaction/Declassification: All documents selected by FRUS compilers for publication undergo a vetting process to ensure that sensitive or protected material is not divulged. In some cases entire documents are withheld, while in other instances only a part (and often a very small part) is excised. The procedures have varied greatly over time. In the 19th century, Department officers conducted this task at the same time they reviewed the manuscript. In the 20th century, declassification specialists organized separately from the compilation and review functions performed this task. From the 1920s until 1980, Department desk officers reviewed documents related to their operational responsibilities. After 1980, retired Senior Foreign Service Officers took over clearance duties. Increasingly over time, this stage involved securing clearance from other agencies when documents included their equities. At times, permission has been sought from other governments when foreign government information is included in documents selected for FRUS publication.
  • Editing: After the volume has been completed, the text is edited for publication. This is a multi-stage process: first the text is prepared for typesetting and then carefully reviewed to ensure that all information about a document (classification, drafting, date, and so on) is correctly rendered in the notes. Until the late 1970s, this typesetting process preceded declassification review. Since then, compilations have been cleared in manuscript before proceeding to typesetting. After the text is typeset, the pages are compared to the original documents to make sure that they have been faithfully copied by the typesetter. Any remaining textual issues are flagged for consultation with the compiler. The front matter (preface and lists of sources consulted, persons mentioned in the text, and abbreviations used in the text) and an index are added to complete the text. Once remaining editing issues are resolved with the typesetter, the volume is then finished.
  • Publishing: The Department of State contracts with the Government Printing Office to prepare and publish FRUS volumes. In the 19th century, the manuscript often went to the printer in parts, and when the final segment was submitted, GPO would bind the entire volume together. At times, lack of funding has delayed the publication of fully-prepared volumes.