- History of the Foreign
Relations Series - Historical Documents
Toward “Thorough, Accurate, and Reliable”: A History of the
Foreign Relations of the United States Series
Agency or the Agency,
unless otherwise indicated, denotes the Central Intelligence Agency
Committee, unless otherwise indicated,
denotes the Historical Advisory Committee. The Committee was formally named
the Advisory Committee on Foreign Relations of the United
States between 1957 and 1978 and the Advisory Committee on
Historical Diplomatic Documentation from 1978 to the present.
Department or the
Department, unless otherwise indicated, denotes the
Department of State
despatch, written (or typed)
communications prepared at post and sent to the Department, usually in the
care of a trusted person or an official courier. For additional information,
see two articles written by David Langbart on “The Text Message” blog on the
NARA website: http://blogs.archives.gov/TextMessage/2011/03/11/foreign-
service-friday/ and http://blogs.archives.gov/TextMessage/2011/05/13/foreign-service-friday-despatch-vs-
equity or equities,
information originated by, classified by, or concerning the activities of
another government agency or organization that only they can declassify.
Records that contain other agency “equities” must be referred to those
agencies for declassification review before they can be released or
published. For example, a Department of State account of a meeting with a
CIA official would contain CIA equities and would have to be submitted to
the CIA for declassification review before it could be released by the
Department of State. Policies for recognizing foreign government equities
have evolved over time. In the 19th century, the U.S. Government freely
published formal correspondence with other governments without seeking their
consent. In the 20th century, the Department of State required foreign
government agreement before publishing foreign-origin documents, but not
when publishing American accounts of meetings with foreign officials. The
Department expanded its definition of foreign government information (FGI)
equities to include such U.S. memoranda of conversation in the 1970s and
implemented procedures to expand consultations with foreign governments to
clear documents for the Foreign Relations series
after 1981. For additional information see the White House webpage regarding
Executive Order 13526, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/executive-order-classified-national-security-information.
, the Foreign Relations of the United
States publication. Volumes have been titled differently over time,
especially in the 19th century. For clarity this book uses the short version
of the modern title throughout. “Foreign Relations,”
“FRUS,” “the series,” and “volumes” are employed
interchangeably to avoid excessive repetition of the same term. In the 19th
and early 20th centuries, the volumes typically included documents from
January through October of the year in question, with additional material
from November-December of the prior year that arrived too late for inclusion
in the publication. Throughout this work we cite the “principal year” of
publication in for simplification and clarity. For example, the official
title of what we refer to as the “1877 FRUS volume,”
which included some documents from last few months of 1876, is Index to the Executive Documents of the House of
Representatives for the Second Session of the Forty-Fifth Congress,
1877–’78, in 22 Volumes, Vol. 1, Foreign Relations (No. 1, Pt. 1).
The Department of State is gradually digitizing volumes moving backward in
time, with robust search capabilities. For the full list of volumes and the
current options for viewing them online, see the Department of State, Office
of the Historian website, http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments.
Minister, highest title accorded to U.S.
representatives abroad in the 18th and 19th centuries. The first U.S.
Ambassador was named in 1893, and Ambassadorial-level appointments became
more common as the 20th century progressed.
Office, unless otherwise indicated,
denotes the Historian’s Office (which had different titles over time) of the
Department of State.
responsible transparency or responsible
release, denotes the retrospective disclosure of
government records that have been officially evaluated for potential damage
to diplomatic activities, military operations, intelligence sources and
methods, and other sensitivities prior to release. Although this concept is
inherently normative—and, indeed, the contested nature of the norms that it
embodies is a central theme of this book—we employ the term descriptively as
the evolving outcome of efforts to strike the proper balance between
security and openness.
size [of the FRUS
series], refers to the number of pages allocated to publishing documents for
a given time period (absolute size) or the proportion of available
documentation actually published in FRUS volumes
(relative size). The absolute size of the series has generally increased
over time while the relative size has steadily declined.
scope [of the FRUS series], reflects the breadth of sources consulted during the
compilation process. The scope of the series has broadened since the 1950s
from a strict focus on Department of State records to incorporate documents
from many additional U.S. Government agencies.