Appendix II: Working with Primary Sources
Supplement to Marc
Trachtenberg, The Craft of International History,
Last revised: October 2017
In this appendix I want to talk about some of the most important collections of source material, especially material that I didn’t discuss in Chapter Five, and I want to show you how to go about identifying other sources related to your topic. Note that while anyone can use this website, some of the links work only from UCLA computers. The website will be updated about once a year.
The discussion here will broken down into a number of parts. First, I’ll talk about the published documents, and then I’ll discuss collections that are available in some semi-published form: on microfilm or microfiche, on CD-ROM or through the internet. After that, I’ll give some information about archival sources, and then I’ll talk about various open sources—sources that were never secret and are available today in a variety of formats. Then I’ll tell you what you need to know about using the Freedom of Information Act, putting in Mandatory Declassification Review requests, and in general about what you need to do if you’d like to see still-classified material. Finally, I’ll deal with some practical matters: funding, housing when you’re doing archival work abroad, and so on.
This webpage has been archived and will be available—in principle, in perpetuity—through the Wayback Machine at https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/trachtenberg/methbk/AppendixII.html. If that link doesn’t work—or for some reason one of the backslashes often gets dropped when you click on the link—you could copy that URL and paste it into your browser’s search window, or you could try searching for the regular URL for this webpage (http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/trachtenberg/methbk/AppendixII.html) on the main Wayback Machine website (http://web.archive.org/).
Contents of this page:
VII. Some Practical Information (copying documents, housing, funding)
The collections of diplomatic documents published by major governments are of fundamental importance, and for that reason were discussed at some length in the final section of Chapter Five. Rather than rehash that discussion, let me just give some of the key references here:
Foreign Relations of the United States [FRUS] JX233 .A3 (for the basic collection; a non-circulating set is in the Law School Library)
Basic FRUS website (with links to online versions of FRUS volumes, mostly from the Kennedy period onward; keyword searchable). The best way to buy a volume is to phone in your order to the GPO (866- 512-1800).
Volumes available online (1861-1960) (also keyword searchable)
Complete set, available through HeinOnline (subscribing libraries only)
Status of the series (publication schedule; also indicates which volumes have been published over the past year or so)
At UCLA, volumes in the series dealing with specific topics are not shelved with the basic collection, but rather have their own call numbers:
British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914 (11 volumes) *D505 .G79b
A number of volumes are available online through the Hathi Trust
Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939 (65 volumes) DA566.7 .G79d. Two volumes, dealing with the immediate origins of the war of 1939, are available on the Internet Archive website: Series 3, vol. 6, and Series 3, vol. 7
Documents on British Policy Overseas (for post-1945 period; 15 volumes so far) (DA588 .D63 1984) To see what is currently available for purchase, go into the British Stationery Office website’s “advanced search” window, type "Documents on British Policy Overseas" in the series field, and then click “search.”
All three series of British diplomatic documents are also available online from ProQuest through subscribing libraries (currently not including UCLA). The whole site is searchable by keyword.
British Documents on Foreign Affairs: Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print (privately published, facsimiles of the originals, covering roughly the period from 1850-1956, over 500 volumes published so far). This is broken down into thirteen series, each covering a particular region or subject. The volumes are organized chronologically within each series. UCLA has purchased most of the series in this collection, but each series is given a different call number. Note that a good deal of Confidential Print material, some of it covering the period through 1969, has been published electronically by Adam Matthew (link).
House of Commons Parliamentary Papers (whole collection covers 1688 to present; UCLA subscription covers 19th century)
British Parliamentary Papers (UCLA Library research guide)
1871-1914 collection: * D397 .F84d plus SRLF. Many volumes in this collection are available online through Gallica, but the Gallica finding aid is not very good, and to find a particular volume it might make sense to use the advanced Google search engine, limiting your search to the Gallica website.
1932-39 collection: DC396 .A5 1963
1954- collection; UCLA Library has volumes for 1966 on: JX603 A35 (not included in library catalog)
Full list of published German diplomatic documents (from German Foreign Office website; with links to full text of many of these volumes)
Die grosse Politik der europäischen Kabinette, 1871-1914 (40 volumes in 54) SRLF About thirty volumes are available online through the Internet Archive). A partial French translation is also available: La Politique extérieure de l’Allemagne, 1870-1914 (32 volumes). (D394 G31p—not included in UCLA library catalogue)
Karl Kautsky et al., Die deutschen Dokumente zum Kriegsausbruch 1914 (Internet Archive). The English translation is available online through subscribing libraries in the Artemis Primary Sources collection The Making of Modern Law: Foreign, Comparative and International Law, 1600-1926 (link).
Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik, 1918-1945 (62 volumes in 5 series; all volumes available online through Bavarian State Library website) (link). JX691 .A5 1949G; Law KZ691 .A5 1949
Two series (Series C and Series D) were also published in English translation: Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918-1945 (18 volumes, covering the period from 1933 to 1941). JX691 .A5 1949; Law KZ691 .A5 1949; SLRF
At least seven of those volumes from Series D (covering the 1937-45 period) have been posted on the Internet Archive website. All have links to pdf copies of the original volumes:
Akten zur auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (covers the period from 1949 on, with at least a single volume for each year; over 40 volumes published so far, dealing with the 1949-53 and 1962-85 periods). DD258.8 .A38. (link to list of volumes) Volumes for 1949-53 and many volumes covering the period from 1963 on are available on the publisher’s (link). Paper volumes come out about thirty years after the events they cover, and are (freely) available online four years after the volume is first published.
Kabinettsprotokolle der Bundesregierung (1949-84 available online as of November 2016)
Die Internationalen Beziehungen im Zeitalter des Imperialismus: Dokumente aus den Archiven der Zarischen und der Provisorischen Regierung (pre-revolutionary Russian documents published during the Soviet period) SRLF. A number of volumes are available through the University of Cologne website (link) and through the German Digital Library website (link).
Krasnyĭ arkhiv (106 vols) DK1 .K86
Note also Peter Blitstein’s “Selected
Bibliography of Recent Published Document Collections on Soviet History” (1999) (This bibliography includes a
section on late imperial
You should remember, of course, that other governments—
It’s amazing how much material you can examine without having to spend a single night away from home. A vast amount of material is available on microfilm, microfiche, and CD-ROM, and in recent years a very large and growing body of material has been put online.
Let me talk first about those first three types of
sources. You can usually get access to
them even if your home library doesn’t own them. To order them through inter-library loan,
first request the finding aids—they’re generally published as supplements to
the original microform or CD-ROM publications—and then request specific reels
or fiche or CD’s. You can locate those
guides and collections and make your inter-library loan request by using
WorldCat, which you can get into at UCLA by going into the MELVYL catalogue. Just make sure you don’t limit your search to
UCLA or the
How do you identify material of this sort you might be interested in? You can identify some of these sources using the basic library search engines, but that method is often pretty hit-or-miss, so you should probably use a number of approaches. You could start, for example, with the Library of Congress catalogue. Just do an ordinary keyword search, but use the search term "microform" in conjunction with other search terms (for example: “Japan AND foreign AND microform”—but without the quotation marks). If your keyword is a phrase, make sure you enclose it in quotation marks or the search won’t work. If you go into a particular listing, you can click into the links for the subject headings you’ll find there. The listing for microfilm collections often has links to online finding aids. But how well you do with this method really depends on your ability to guess the right keywords. So you might also want to go through one of the online guides I referred to in Chapter Five: “Major Microform Collections in the Combined Arms Research Library.” That guide will give you a good general sense for what is available in this area.
You might also want to take a look at the Guide to the Microform Collections in the Humanities and Social Sciences Division of the Library of Congress. The online version of that guide builds on a number of earlier published versions, most recently one edited by Patrick Frazier:
Guide to the Microform Collections in the Humanities and Social Sciences Division of the Library of Congress, ed. Patrick Frazier (Washington: Library of Congress, 1996). Ref Z1033.M5 L53 1996
To use the online guide, first click into one of the
halves of the index—either the A-J or the K-Z half—and either scroll through
to see what is available, look up the name of a particular country or subject
you are interested in, or do a Ctrl F search for a country’s name or other
keyword. Particular collections are listed under various subject headings in
that alphabetical index. Once you have
identified a particular collection, click into the letter that the title of
that collection begins with. (The links for each letter are at the top of the
index pages.) For example, if you scroll down to “Japan” toward the bottom of
the A-J part of the index, you will see two headings, “Japan—Foreign
Relations” and “Japan—History.” Say you are interested in the first
collection listed under “
Of course you’ll also come across references to particular collections of this sort as you do your regular bibliographical work. But you may want to do a more systematic search for what is available, so let me talk a bit about how that can be done. You can search systematically because microfilm, microfiche and CD-ROM collections are published by just a handful of major private firms and governments—and by “governments” I mean mainly the U.S. government, which, in fact, has made available not just its own records, but massive amounts of material produced by certain other countries. So you just go through the catalogues describing these products one by one.
University Publications of America (now part of ProQuest) is the first firm you should know about. For a list of UPA’s microfilm collections in International Studies, click here. You’ll see a list of about twelve subheadings—International Relations, European Studies, and so on. By clicking into the links for those subheadings, you’ll then see the particular collections in that area that they’ve published. When you find one that you think you might want to see, just bookmark that link, maybe keeping those bookmarks together in a single folder. Note that for some collections very detailed user guides (listing by frame number every document in each reel) are now available online on this website. Many of these collections have links to user guides, so if you have to order something through Interlibrary Loan, you’ll know exactly which reels to request. (You might also want to click into “American studies” and not just “international studies.” In the American studies list, click into the link for “political history.” A whole series of interesting collections is included here—for example, under George Bush, the Records on the Persian Gulf Crisis, 1989-1992.)
Some of the UPA collections are of really fundamental
importance. I personally find the
collections of JCS and NSC material to be particularly useful. The first two parts of the Records
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cover the period from 1942 to 1953; this
includes about 120 reels of microfilm.
(At UCLA, the guides are generally at the A-level service desk in YRL,
but the microfilm itself is housed in SRLF and has to be ordered separately,
via the online library catalog.) UPA
has also begun to put out a third part, covering the period from 1954 to
1960; the only part to appear so far (2014) deals with the
If you work with the JCS material, you might want to use it in conjunction with the various histories that Defense Department historians have produced. The series on The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy (UA23.7 .H56 1986) is particularly important. Thirteen volumes in that series, covering the period from 1945 to 1980, are available online.
But there are other JCS histories worth knowing about. Some have been published—to see what they are, just do a title search in a good library catalogue for “History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff”—and others have been declassified and are available in the archives or online. The JCS “History of the Indochina Incident,” for example, I found to be of particular value: it summarized documents that were considered too sensitive to declassify and include in the regular boxes of JCS papers that were made available to the public. Such histories are particularly useful if you’re doing archival work, because their footnotes tell you what the richest files are. Five volumes from the “Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam” series, covering the period from 1954 through 1973, are also available in the DOD’s FOIA unit’s Electronic Reading Room (which I’ll be talking about a bit later in the section on online sources). Various other JCS histories exist but have not been declassified, and there are classified versions of some of the JCS histories that have been published. (For a partial list, click here.) If you find out about something of interest, you can of course ask to see it under the Freedom of Information Act, which I’ll be talking about at the end of this appendix.
The NSC material is composed of two collections: the Documents of the National Security Council and the Minutes of Meetings of the National Security Council. Each of these includes the original microfilm publication plus a number of microfilm supplements. These two collections should be used in conjunction with each other. UCLA has both of these collections, but not in their entirety, and unfortunately our holdings are something of a mess. If you want to use this source, your best bet is to start with the very good 721-page cumulative index to both collections: the Index to Documents of the National Security Council (*UA10.5 N37 I38 1994, in the YRL stacks—the asterisk means it’s shelved with the large-sized books). This covers the material through the first supplement of the Minutes of Meetings and the fourth supplement of the Documents. This is quite a chunk: some of this material was produced during the Reagan period. Guides for the additional supplements of the Documents collection (but not to the Minutes collection), and quite a few of those supplements have appeared so far, are linked to the listing for that supplement on the website I just gave you. Hard copy guides for particular supplements are also available at the A-level service desk in YRL for the collections our library owns.
As for the microfilm itself, the microfilm for the original Documents of the NSC collection (UA10.5 N39) can be found in the microfilm area, but the two supplements are in SRLF, and the reels have to be ordered using the UCLA library catalogue. UCLA evidently does not own the third or fourth supplements, but using the guides I mentioned in the previous paragraph you can identify the reels you need to see and order them through interlibrary loan.
There’s another way to get access to the NSC material. First, you can identify specific documents and meetings using a number of lists that are available. There is a list of the numbered NSC documents through the end of the Eisenhower period in Gerald Haines, A Reference Guide to United States Department of State Special Files (CD3031 H35 1985), pp. 38-62. I'm also posting a somewhat shorter list of numbered NSC documents, arranged by subject, also limited to documents from the Eisenhower period. For the NSC meetings, I found a list of the NSC summaries of discussion for the Eisenhower period which I’m making available here as a link. A list of NSC meetings for the Truman period is also available online. Using those lists to identify materials, you could then search for a copy of that document that has been posted online, using the Declassified Documents Reference System, to be described below.
Specific types of NSC documents (e.g., National Security Action Memoranda for the Kennedy period, National Security Decision Memoranda for the Nixon period, and so on) can be found using the following online guides: Presidential Directives and Where to Find Them (Library of Congress) and Presidential Directives and Executive Orders (Federation of American Scientists; many linked to texts). Note also the collection of “Presidential Directives on National Security from Truman to Clinton” on the Digital National Security Archive website.
Here are some other interesting UPA collections:
John F. Kennedy
National Security Files, 1961-1963:
Lyndon B. Johnson National Security Files, 1963-1969 (with guides)
Memos of the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs McGeorge Bundy to President Johnson, 1963-1966
Vietnam: National Security Council Histories (SRLF)
Papers of the Nixon White House (UCLA has guide only: YRL E855 .P37 1987, but reels are at UC Irvine and can be ordered easily through MELVYL)
Primary Source Media (an imprint of Gale, formerly Thomson-Gale) is the second firm you should know about. (The old Scholarly Resources microform publications are now handled by this company.) When you click into their website, a list of all their collections turns up. You can then narrow it down by subject area (e.g., “history”) and then by specific subject (e.g., “European history”). Or you could search for a particular keyword (e.g., “Russian archives”—this generates 21 hits). Many of the collections here are based on the holdings of the U.S. State Department and the British Foreign Office, although quite a few other interesting collections are included here—for example, the Dean Acheson Papers, the George Ball Papers, the Walter Lippmann Papers, a collection of Chamberlain Papers, a collection of “Papers of the Prime Ministers of Great Britain” (18th and 19th centuries), and a couple of collections of Churchill Papers (The Sir Winston Churchill Papers—subsets with links to guides; and Churchill at War). Online guides are linked to the lists on the following webpage: Primary Source Media. There’s also a list of guides broken down by subject; click “I” for “international.” Here are some of the collections listed there (with links to the guides):
Papers of Henry Lewis Stimson, 1867-1950 [Guide]
Diaries of Henry Lewis Stimson, 1909-1945 [Guide]
George W. Ball Papers [Guide]
Gerald R. Ford and Foreign Affairs:
1: National Security Advisor’s Files, Section 1: Presidential Country Files
Part 1: National Security Advisor’s Files, Section 2: Presidential Correspondence and Conversations with Foreign Leaders [Guide]
Jimmy Carter and Foreign Affairs:
Part 1: White House Central Files, Section 1: Foreign Affairs Subject File [Guide]
George H. W. Bush and Foreign Affairs 1989-1993:
3: Fall of the
4: The Middle East Peace
Cyprus Crisis, 1967: The State Department’s Crisis Files [Guide]
Documenting the Peruvian Insurrection [Guide]
Russian Archives: Cold War and Central Committee:
Series 1: The International Department, 1953-1957 [Guide]
Series 2: The General Department of the Central Committee, 1953-1966 [Guide]
Series 3: Congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1955-1986 [Guide]
Series 4: Plenums of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1941-1990 [Guide]
Incidentally, there is
another important collection of Soviet archival material available on
microfilm: the Archives of the
Soviet Communist Party and Soviet State, an enormous collection that can
be consulted at the Hoover Institution at
Next let me talk a bit about Adam Matthew Publications. This is a British firm and mainly puts out collections of British material. When you go into their website, click into “Collections A-Z,” and then “U.S. Dollar version.” A long list of publications, not divided up by category, then appears on the screen. Here’s a list of some items that might be of interest to people in our field:
Cabinet Papers (actually both Cabinet and Prime Minister’s Office papers)
Curzon, India and Empire
The First World War: A Documentary Record
Foreign Office Files (broken down into collections dealing with China, Cuba, Japan, Post-War Europe, the USSR, and the United States)
Macmillan Cabinet Papers (available online as noted below, but was originally sold on CD-ROM, and that CD-ROM version is still available in certain libraries)
Nuclear Policy and the Cold War
Treasury Papers (of John Maynard Keynes)
A number of important collections dealing with international relations are available online through subscribing libraries from Adam Matthew Digital:
The Nixon Years, 1969-1974 (key collections from the British National Archives at Kew)
Next let me talk briefly about microform materials put out under official auspices. This means mainly the microfilm collections published by the U.S. National Archives. There are other microform sources that could be mentioned in this context. The major collections of diplomatic documents, for example, sometimes have microfiche supplements. The FRUS microfiche supplements, for example, are listed in the FRUS website, cited above. (To locate them, go into the pages for the Eisenhower and Kennedy periods and do a Ctrl F search for “microfiche.”) Microfiche supplements have also been published in conjunction with the Documents on British Policy Overseas. But the U.S. National Archives is by far the most important official producer of this sort of material.
The National Archives
periodically publishes a catalogue of their microfilm publications: National Archives Microfilm Publications
for Research: A Comprehensive Catalog (
RG 59: General Records of the Department of State (1100 publications)
RG 242: National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized (93 publications)
There are, however, a number of interesting microfilm publications based on material found in various other record groups:
RG 225: Records of Joint Army and Navy Boards and Committees
RG 226: Records of the Office of Strategic Services
RG 243: Records of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey
RG 260: Records of U.S. Occupation Headquarters, World War II
RG 331: Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II (Records relating to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East)
Using the online catalogue, you can quickly see which microfilm publications have been drawn from material in those last five record groups. As for the State Department material in RG 59, if you don’t want to review the entire list of microfilm publications—and there are about 1100 of them—you could use the online catalogue, but conduct a more targeted search. You could, for example, put the name of the country you’re interested in in the subject term field, put “59” in the record group field, and then click the search button. A hard copy catalogue of microfilm publications relating to foreign policy was published a number of years ago:
United States, National Archives and Records Administration, Diplomatic Records: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications (Washington: NARA, 1986) (REF Z6465.U5 N37 1986). You can also use the National Archives online search engine to search for these records. Go into the National Archives microfilm catalog, click “advanced search,” and then, in the dropdown menu for “subject catalogue,” select “Diplomatic Records” (lists 849 microfilm collections, practically all from RG 59).
Let me end this section
with a word about RG 242. This is the
record group for foreign material that fell into the hands of the American
government. Some of the sources here are very rich. There are 93 microfilm publications listed
for this record group, and some of the most important ones have to do with
American Historical Association, Committee for the Study of War Documents, A Catalogue of Files and Microfilms of the German Foreign Ministry Archives, 1867-1920 (Washington, 1959) (also available as microfilm publication T322) REF CD1265 1959
A Catalog of Files and Microfilms of the German Foreign Ministry Archives, 1920-1945, 4 vols., comp. and ed. George O. Kent (Stanford, Calif., Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 1962-1972 ). REF CD1265 1962
The first of those catalogues, according to its preface, “is both a record of the files of the Political Department of the German Foreign Ministry for the period 1867-1920 and a guide to all microfilming programs which have been carried out in these and other related files by the German War Document Program of the American, British, and French Governments, by other governments, and by certain institutions and individuals.”
There are many other collections of German material from RG 242 that have been put out on microfilm. There is, for example, a whole series of publications of the papers of well-known German military figures—Roon, Schlieffen, Gneisenau, Seeckt, Groener, Moltke, and so on. Microfilm Publication T291 contains the papers of certain German diplomats. For more information about some of these materials, see J.S. Conway, German Historical Source Material in United States Universities (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Council for European Studies, 1973); Anne Hope and Jörg Nagler, Guide to German Sources in American Archives and Libraries (Washington: German Historical Institute, 1991—available free of charge from the GHI); and Manfred F. Boemeke and Roger Chickering, Guide to Archives and Historical Collections in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Part II: Research Resources in Modern German and Austrian History (Washington: GHI, 1995).
There are also some Italian collections listed, including collections of Mussolini and Ciano papers. There’s a collection of Soviet documents from the Smolensk archive—that material was the basis for Merle Fainsod’s famous book, Smolensk under Soviet Rule (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1958)—and even a collection of Grenada material. For more information about these collections, check out the section on RG 242 in the National Archives' online guide.
Many important British
materials are also available on microfilm.
You can find a lot of them by doing an advanced search on the MELVYL catalogue. In one of the search windows, select “subject”
from the drop-down menu and type in something like “Great Britain Foreign
relations Sources.” If you click
“search” at this point, the search engine will list everything in the
database listed under a set of subject headings which taken together contain
all those words. But that would yield
a lot of non-microfilm material. To
then limit that search to microfilm sources, you can no longer select
“microform” from the “format” menu at the bottom of the screen; select “archival material” instead. This
search can generate listings from all the libraries in the WorldCat
system; many items turn up more than
once. But in either window, you can limit the search to items at UCLA, or in
You might think that you
can identify sources available on microfilm by making “microfilm” (or even
“microform”) one of the keywords you use in your search, but that does not
always work. It would not, for
example, turn up many of the very important microfilm collections of British
cabinet documents that you can find just by doing an author search for “
Committee of Imperial Defence and Standing Defence Sub-committee [CAB 2]: Minutes, 1902-1939. CRL
*Cabinet Minutes and Memoranda, 1916-1939 [CAB 23 and 24]. UCD and CRL; guide in SRLF. Note that a Subject Index of War Cabinet Minutes is also available on microfilm. It’s divided up as follows:  1916 Dec.-1918 Mar.;  1918 Apr.-1919 Dec.;  1939 Sept.-1941; Dec. 1942 Jan.-1945 July UCI
CAB 23 is covered by List and Index Society vols. 40, 51, 61, 62, 92, 100
CAB 24 is covered by List and Index Society vols. 29, 41, 52, 156
Imperial War Cabinet, 1917; minutes of meetings 1-14, Mar. 20-May 2, 1917 (with subject index) [CAB 23/40] UCSD
Papers and Minutes of the British Secretariat to the Supreme War Council, 1917-1919. [CAB 25] CRL
Proceedings and Conclusions of Anglo-French and Allied Conferences, 1915-1920 [CAB 28] CRL
Cabinet Papers, 1880-1916. [CAB 37/1-162] UCSD
Records of the Committee of Imperial Defence, 1888-1914 [CAB 38] CRL, UCSD
Cabinet Letters in Royal Archives, 1868-1916. [CAB 41/1-37] UCSD
Chiefs of Staff Committee, Minutes of Meetings and Papers, 1934-1939 [CAB 53/1-55] UCI
*Cabinet Minutes, 1939-1945 [CAB 65/1-55] UCI
See List and Index Society vols. 71 and 74
*War Cabinet Minutes and Papers, 1939-1941 [CAB 67] CRL
See List and Index Society vol. 148
*War Cabinet Minutes and Papers, 1939-1942. Memoranda (WP(G) Series) [CAB 68] CRL
See List and Index Society vol. 148
Chiefs of Staff Committee. Minutes, 1939-1946 [CAB 79] CRL
Chiefs of Staff Committee, Memoranda and Minutes [CAB 80/1-22, 104-105] UCI
Committees and Sub-committees of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Minutes and Papers, 1939-1947. [CAB 81]
Note: CAB 81/40 deals with post-hostilities planning, 1939-1947 CRL
Joint Planning Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence and the War Cabinet, Minutes of Meetings [CAB 84] UCI
Chiefs of Staff Committee, Anglo-French Committees: Minutes of Meetings, 1939-1940 [CAB 85/1-64] UCI
Chiefs of Staff Committee Papers, 1942-1947 [CAB 88/1-39] UCI
Commonwealth and International Conferences, Minutes and Papers, 1939-1945. [CAB 99] CRL
Cabinet Minutes (CM and CC Series), 1945-1974. [CAB 128] CRL
Cabinet Memoranda (CP and C Series), 1945-1972. [CAB 129] CRL
In the past, a vast amount of very valuable material was published on microfilm or microfiche, but the tendency nowadays is make this kind of material available in some electronic format—or, more precisely, to make it available online. In this section, I’d like to talk about some of the main online sources, first those put out by various private organizations and then those put out under the auspices of various government agencies.
The Declassified Documents Reference System [DDRS]—now called “US Declassified Documents Online” but I’ll use the old term—is the first such source you should know about, especially if you’re working on the Cold War period. The people who run it publish a selection of newly released declassified documents. As I noted above, these documents used to be published on microfiche. They’re now available online—but only through libraries that subscribe to this service. If you’re with UCLA, to get access to it, you’ll therefore need either to log in from a computer on campus or use the proxy server.
With the DDRS search engine, you can do either a basic search or an advanced search. You might as well always use the advanced search option; if the only field you fill in is the top one, this is equivalent to doing a basic search anyway. You begin by entering the terms you want to search for in the search fields at the top of the screen. You can do a keyword, title, or subject search, and you can also search for words found in the text of the document itself. You then use the remaining fields to limit the search in various ways—by date of issue, classification level, and so on.
In theory, this is a very powerful finding aid and can be an effective (and efficient) way to generate source material bearing on particular topics. You can zero in on documents that were produced within a particular time frame, or by a particular agency, or which dealt with a particular subject, or indeed that meet all three criteria. But be careful, because this search engine is by no means perfect. Not all documents dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example, are labeled as such, so a subject search for that term would not yield everything in the DDRS database dealing with that episode. Searching by date and perhaps by agency of origin might be a more effective way to generate listings related to that topic.
The Digital National Security Archive [DNSA], another subscription service, is the second online source you should know about. The DNSA developed out of the microfiche collections that the National Security Archive published in the 1990s and currently includes about 40 collections, each focused on a particular topic. To see what they are, go into the main DNSA webpage and under “Included databases,” click “show all” at the bottom. Just click into the link on the left for “collections,” and then click into the links for whichever collections interest you. Note that some of these collections are linked to certain projects conducted under the auspices of the National Security Archive itself. The collection on U.S.-Japanese relations, for example, was connected to the National Security Archive U.S.-Japan project. That project, incidentally, has its own website, which contains the text of various working papers and oral history transcripts.
The DNSA search page is very easy to use. (It’s best to use the “advanced search” window.) You can then search by collection or you can search in all collections at the same time. You can limit the search by date, by level or classification, and in various other ways. Subject terms corresponding to a particular document are noted in the listing for that document, and those terms themselves are linked, so you can quickly call up other documents related to the subject you’re interested in. You have the option of viewing (and saving) particular documents on pdf; this, incidentally, is the case for the DDRS as well.
The DNSA is, as I say, a subscription service, but there are many
documents (including documents not in the DNSA) available on the National
Security Archive’s open website. This
material is to be found mainly on various “electronic briefing books,”
dealing with various topics, and containing documents and commentary. Those briefing
books are in turn listed by area on the NSA “documents”
webpage (“Nuclear History,” “
The Cold War International History Project [CWIHP] website is also worth looking at, at least if you are interested in the Cold War period. The CWIHP’s (now called the Wilson Center’s) “Digital Archive” is composed of a series of collections of documents, often translated from Russian, east European, or Asian Communist original texts. Many of those documents were originally published in the CWIHP’s Bulletin or in one of the CWIHP’s working papers. Both the Bulletin and the working papers are available online. The CWIHP has also posted a collection of E-dossiers, presenting “new and important accessions to the CWIHP ‘Virtual Archive.’” Those documents were drawn from the Russian and East-Bloc Documents Database (jointly sponsored by the CWIHP and the National Security Archive).
Those are perhaps the most important sources of online material made available by private institutions, but this is by no means a comprehensive listing of what can be found on the internet. If you read Russian, for example, you’ll certainly be interested in the “online document archive” of Russian-language documents on the Harvard Project on Cold War Studies website. And you’ll probably want to take a look at Vladimir Bukovsky’s Soviet Archives website and at the material available on the Parallel History Project website (“thousands of pages of unpublished archival documents in facsimile, articles, and research reports with a particular emphasis on the military-political dimensions of the Cold War”—click the link for “collections”). The PHP website also has a good deal of material relating to the NATO side of conflict. See, for example, “Lifting the Veil on Cosmic: Declassified U.S. and British Documents on NATO Military Planning and Threat Assessments of the Warsaw Pact.” If you’re interested in the Vietnam War, you might want to check out the Vietnam Center and Archive website (sponsored by Texas Tech). Many documents have been digitized and posted on this website. See especially their webpage on their most frequently used collections.
Another very important online source has been set up by the
Now let me turn to the official sources. Many documents have been posted on various
The State Department has an Electronic Reading Room which contains over 100,000 documents released by that agency (as of July 2015) in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or in other ways. This search engine was improved substantially in 2013, but you still have to search for documents by seeing which ones contain particular words and phrases, and that means that you’re forced to guess which words or phrases the documents you’re interested in are likely to contain—but those words or phrases need to be chosen in a way that does not generate too many useless hits. (If, for example, you did a search in their Kissinger telephone transcripts collection for the word “Kissinger,” of the 4669 documents in that collection (as of July 2014), you’d get hits for only 3669 of them—the reason being that Kissinger is sometimes referred to only as “Secretary.”) You can’t limit the search by level of classification, nature of document, or anything like that. On the other hand, you can use wildcards, Boolean connectors, and so on when you’re doing a search. (See the page on search tips in the ERR.)
This search engine, however, is very useful if you’re interested in
certain specific topics—
But even if you’re not interested in anything covered by these special collections, you can still now get a lot from this search engine. One technique is based on the fact that you can now search by file number—that is, the number assigned when a particular FOIA request is originally submitted. This means, first of all, is that when you identify a document of interest, you can often see what other documents were released as a result of the same FOIA request just by clicking the link for the case number given next to the document. Not just that—you can also go into the FOIA logs for 2005 on, now posted on the website, to see who filed that request. (To find the link, click “Document Collections” on the left of the main search page.) Once you’ve identified the requester, you can see if that person has filed other requests dealing with this or a related subject. (Your assumption here would be that that requester was interested in a particular subject, and that it’s quite possible he or she had filed other FOIA requests for material related to that subject.) You can locate file numbers for those other FOIA requests by searching for that person’s name in the FOIA logs (they’re keyword searchable). Once you identify those other case numbers, you can search them for in the main search engine.
If you use this technique, there are a couple of other things you should know. First, when you do identify particular case numbers, you have to enter them in the main search engine in the proper format. The case number may be given on the logs as “200601579,” but if you type that in, you’ll get nothing. You have to type it in as “F-2006-01579” (without the quotation marks) to get hits. The second thing is that if you want to avoid having to go through all the logs, you can go into the Google advanced search engine and search for that requester’s last name, limiting your search (in the “site or domain” field) to the two websites where the logs have been posted: first to http://foia.state.gov/_docs/FOIALogs (for the logs for 2005-2010) and in a second search to http://foia.state.gov/searchapp/DOCUMENTS (for the logs for 2011 on). Then, in the pdf’s that are generated by that search, do a Ctrl F search for the requester’s name. You can use the same technique to identify cases dealing with a particular subject (e.g., “Arab-Israeli”) or person (e.g., “Kissinger”) or both.
Note also that a major collection of State Department material from 1973-78 has been put online by the National Archives on their “Access to Archival Databases” website. For more information, click here. For access to that material, click here. This, in fact, is a very useful source if you’re working on that period. When you click into that webpage, you’ll see that the source is broken down into a number of categories. The links for the electronic telegrams for each year can be searched directly, and the listings that are generated are linked directly to pdf texts of the documents themselves. Other files available there are indexes for other sorts of material (memoranda of conversations, airgrams, memos, etc.); those documents are mostly available on microfilm, although some of them have been preserved on paper. You’re also provided with files listing withdrawn material. A “Frequently Asked Questions” handout gives you more information about this source.
The search engine for the electronic telegrams file takes a little getting used to. Perhaps the most important thing to note is that each telegram is associated with one or more “TAGS.” You can get a list of them by clicking the “Select from Code List” link in the TAGS field in the basic fielded search engine, which you get into by clicking the search button for one of the files listed on the AAD homepage. You then select the TAGS you want, remembering to click the “submit” button when you’re finished. The search will then generate lists of documents, each of which contains at least one of the TAGS you selected. That might be a very big list. If you want a list of documents, each of which contains two or more specific TAGS, you should use the advanced search engine and enter the TAGS in the first (“with all of the values”) field. You could also enter other text in that field—e.g., someone’s name or some topic like “Year of Europe.”
The online CIA collections are also quite important. The CIA Freedom of Information website—the Agency’s “Electronic Reading Room”—was, in fact, improved dramatically in January 2017. It is now possible to use that website to read and download a very large number of documents in pdf format. But the search engine itself, although improved in some minor ways, is still not nearly as user-friendly as it used to be. Beginning in 2005 it was changed so that at the bottom of every page in every document that was posted in this collection, certain information was given; one of the fields listed one or more keywords that had been assigned to that document; and you were able to use those keywords in the “exact phrase” field in the advanced search window, which was still available at that time. Moreover, by clicking the link they had there for the “Keyword List” you could see the whole list of keywords that were used in this way. In that way you could search for particular subjects of interest to you. Moreover, once you had identified particular documents, you could also note (again, at the bottom of each page in the document) the “case number” corresponding to that document. You could then take that case number and search for it in the “document number” field in the advanced search window. Often a number of related documents turned up in this way, and additional keywords were given for some of them. You could then search for those new keywords.
But you can’t conduct a search that way anymore. At some point in 2008-2009—I’m not sure whether this was before or after the change of administration in Washington—they changed the system. The keyword list was removed from the website and once again you had to grope in the dark for keywords (as you had to do before 2005). What this means is that the “Historical Collections” included in this website—there are about thirty of them—are of particular importance. How do you find them? You could begin by checking out the list of collections on the CIA’s FOIA website; note also the webpage for other special collections. A collection of the President’s Daily Briefs, was posted to that site in September 2015 (link to press release and brochure). A number of historical collections are related to books and monographs published by the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence (list with links to texts; see discussion below).
The most important collections for our purposes are: The National Intelligence Council (NIC) Collection (“analytic reports produced by the National Intelligence Council on a variety of geographical and functional issues since 1946”); the China Collection; the Vietnam Collection; and the Princeton Collection (“analytic reports produced by the Directorate of Intelligence on the Former Soviet Union, declassified and released for a March 2001 Conference at Princeton University”). Well-organized, browsable online indexes, with direct links to the text of the documents themselves, are available for all four collections.
There are three other collections that you should know about. They’re not included in the list of “Historical Collections” noted above, but the CIA FOIA office has placed lists of documents included in these collections on its website:
Those lists are important, because knowing the titles of particular documents allows you to look them up in the Electronic Reading Room. In many cases, this allows you to view and download pdf copies of those documents. And even if a particular document is not in the ERR, you still may be able to find a copy using the DDRS or the DNSA.
Some additional documents have also been made available by the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence. The online version of CIA’s Analysis of the Soviet Union, 1947-1991, for example, a publication the CSI put out in 2001, contains 49 important documents. Finally, if you’re interested in the early 1960s, there is a list of NIE’s (and the often more important SNIE’s) produced from January 1960 through May 1962 that the NSC staff considered “still generally useful” available through the DDRS or by clicking here. That list might also help you search for particular documents. Many articles from the CIA’s in-house journal Studies in Intelligence have been posted online. Two indices are available on the CSI’s Studies webpage, an author-title index and an operations-subject index, both with links to full-text versions of the articles listed. Neither index, however, provides a full listing of all the declassified articles from this journal. For that list, click here. To find articles in that latter list not available in either of the other indices, you have to search for it in the CIA’s Electronic Reading Room. For example, an article called “Deciphering Soviet Military Doctrine” by G. Murphy Donovan, which appeared in the Summer 1985 issue, is listed in that latter index but not in the other two. When you do a search for that title, the only thing that turns up is a table of contents for that issue, so to get it you’d have to put in a FOIA request for it—but since we know it’s already been declassified, it shouldn’t take long to get.
But what about the great mass of declassified CIA material (over 12 million pages as of January 2017) that is now available online through the CREST (“CIA Records Search Tool) system? How do you go about figuring out which of those documents is worth reading? As I noted above, the search engine was improved in 2017, but in practice the changes were less useful than you might think. There is now an advanced search option (a guide is available online) that allows you, in principle, to search by case number; a “case number” is given whenever a FOIA request is filed. But when you do identify documents of interest, the case number is, in my experience at least, rarely if ever listed—even though there is a line in each listing for “case number.” I thought that the work-around would be to locate lists of case numbers online, and there are in fact a number of such lists that have been posted on the internet (themselves released as a result of FOIA requests). But when you copy those case numbers into the appropriate box on the CIA’s FOIA website, nothing ever seems to turn up. Try it yourself: case logs for 2005-2007; 2009 log; 2010 log; 2011 log. The CIA FOIA website certainly doesn’t tell you how to find case numbers that would work in a search, and does not even include a phone number or email address which you could use to contact them to get some kind of help.
What this means is that to use the CREST collection more efficiently you have to go to the third floor of the National Archives building in College Park, Maryland, and work at one of the special computer terminals that were available there. If you do that, you can actually browse the CREST database and zero in on particular “jobs” that contain material of interest to you. A “job” is a set of retired documents. It contains one or more boxes, and each box contains a number of folders, each in turn containing a number of documents. When you double-click on a folder on the left of the CREST main window, a list of documents appears, with titles, on the main part of that window. You can view a particular document just by double-clicking on it, and if you’re interested in it you can even print it out for free.
You can get a sense for which “jobs” or even boxes might be of interest to you by using the search engine available on the internet. You’ll notice that when you do a search for a particular keyword on the basic CIA FOIA search engine, the CREST documents that turn up are identified by particular document numbers, called ESDN’s (for Executive Standard Document Numbers). Here, for example, is a typical ESDN that turns up when one does a search on that search engine:
Doc No/ESDN: CIA-RDP79T00975A002900090001-0
Here’s how to decode
it. After the “CIA-RDP,” which gives
info about the originating agency, the next nine digits give you the job
identifier (in this case 79T00975A). This is followed by four digits giving you
the box number (0029), then by another four digits for the folder number
(0009), and then finally by the document number (0001-0). Using one of the CREST terminals in
There are various other collections of CIA-related material available on CD-ROM. Some of them are available for purchase through the PaperlessArchives website: e.g., Ronald Reagan Cold War Ending CIA Files; and Israel CIA-State Department Files.
Certain documents released by the Department of Defense under the
Freedom of Information Act are also available online in the DoD’s FOIA Reading Room. Click the
link at the bottom for lists of documents.
The lists are not particularly helpful. When you click into the list for
“International Security Affairs,” for example, you’ll notice that many of the
documents don’t even have names. So
the documents are no longer as accessible as they were under the old system,
where documents were listed under headings (e.g., “
One partial solution is to use the list of declassified DoD documents (from 2002) which I downloaded a number of years ago. If you see something of interest on that list, you could search for it on the DoD FOIA website to see if it is available online. If you can’t find it, you could ask the DoD FOIA office to send it to you as an email attachment. An alternative is to search for that title on Google, limiting the search to file type “pdf.” Finally, if this source is important to you, you might want to put in a FOIA request for an up-to-date list of declassified documents, which almost certainly already exists. But only a relatively small portion of the declassified documents currently available on the website are on that list (about 1000 out of 6000).
In 2012, the National Archives also set up a special webpage for declassified material: NARA and Declassification. The section on ISCAP Recent Releases has links to documents released as the result of appeals to this inter-agency panel, many of which are of fundamental importance. You can often learn a lot by comparing “sanitized” versions of a document with fuller versions, including those released following an appeal to ISCAP. You can often find those older versions on the DDRS, or even by doing a Google Search for a relatively innocuous phrase from a document you find on ISCAP. Compare, for example, the record of a December 1973 meeting between Kissinger and Schlesinger released by ISCAP in 2012 (link) with an earlier version of the same document, declassified in 2010, and available on the Ford Library website (link). For more on this method, see my webpage on “declassification analysis,” and a supplement I added in 2013.
One can also find interesting material on some hard-to-use websites maintained by other government agencies—for example, the Department of Energy’s OpenNet. An ordinary search on that website for “Seaborg Diary” yielded over 4000 hits. (If you use the advanced search, be sure to put the search time in the title and not the “full text” field.)
Various other collections of official material can be found online. Probably the most important collection of this sort can be found on the British National Archives website: The Cabinet Papers, 1915-1982. This extraordinary collection contains all the important cabinet materials, both minutes and memoranda, for that entire period. (You might want to use them in conjunction with the List and Index Society lists in YRL which I discuss later in the section dealing with archives.) Some other important material has been made available online, for example the Eden papers. In its Digital Microfilm project, the BNA has digitized parts of some important microfilm collections, such as the records of the Committee of Imperial Defense, and made that material available for free download. That link provides you with a useful, but not comprehensive, guide to finding freely downloadable files.
The BNA’s digital holdings are especially worth checking out if you’re working on a study of events that took place about thirty years earlier. To do this, log into their latest releases and releases archive pages. In each release, there’s a good chance that you’ll find links to listings for some of the most important files covered by that release, and the listings you’re directed too will often provide links for a free download of those files. Thus, for example, at the end of 2016 the following announcement was posted on the BNA’s news webpage: “Prime Minister’s papers from 1989 and 1990 released.” As that announcement noted, “the world was surprised” during the 1989-90 period “by the sudden collapse of communism in Europe, encapsulated by the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent German reunification,” and it went on to give links to the listings for a number of key files: PREM 19/2696, PREM 19/2697, PREM 19/2999, PREM 19/3000, PREM 19/3002, PREM 19/3004, PREM 19/3007. When you click into those listings, you’ll see that pdf copies of all but one of those files are available for immediate (and easy) download. Just click “add to basket,” then “continue to basket,” and then “checkout.” The files, however, are not keyword searchable, so if you want to zero in on a particular issue it might make sense to ocr them first so you can do keyword searches; to do that, you’d have to buy the version of Acrobat that allows you to do this, but it’s not expensive and is definitely one of the programs every scholar should have nowadays.
Other countries have also started putting material of this sort on the internet. The Bundesarchiv has put the German Cabinet protocols (1949-84 so far) on its website. The Bundesarchiv also posted on its website a number of documents from the Chancellor’s Office dealing with the reunification of Germany in 1989-90; those documents were drawn from the special edition of the Dokumente zur Deutschlandpolitik dealing with those events that was published in 1998. A number of documents relating to this issue drawn mainly from the Foreign Office’s Political Archive are also available on the Institut für Zeitgeschichte website; this collection is a supplement to the Amos and Geiger volume, Die Einheit: Das Auswärtige Amt, das DDR-Außenministerium und der Zwei-plus-Vier-Prozess (2015).
For a page listing the Bundesarchiv’s digitized collections, some of which are accessible online, click here; note also the Bundesarchiv’s ingenio website, which gives you direct access to a great mass of archival material.
There is also a collection of important NATO strategy documents (assembled by Gregory Pedlow, the SHAPE historian)
posted on the NATO Archives website; that website, in fact, has
other interesting material as well. There is a very useful set of documents
relating to the Gulf War on the GulfLink website. (To see how this source was
used by one scholar, see Avigdor Haselkorn, The Continuing
Storm: Iraq, Poisonous Weapons and Deterrence [New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1999]). And
very useful collections of online material have been put out by the
There are, in fact, many other sources that are accessible on the internet: the Pentagon Papers, for example; or Clausewitz’s On War; or the report of the Iraqi Perspectives Project on “Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents”; or the Archive of European Integration at the University of Pittsburgh; or the Vietnam Virtual Archive at Texas Tech (containing “4 million pages of scanned material” as of July 2014).
There are also various sources available online that provide statistical data on important issues. For nuclear stockpile figures, see, for example, the Johnston Archive; the Nuclear Weapons Databook (vol. 1, 1984) (vol. 2, 1987); and the ongoing Federation of American Scientists Nuclear Notebook.
The basic procedure for working with archival sources is very simple. First you identify the collections you’d like to examine and then you get the finding aids or inventories for those collections. Using those finding aids, you decide which boxes or volumes of documents you’d like to see. You then submit your request and the materials are either delivered to you or you pick them up at some central desk a little later. It’s all quite straightforward.
How then do you identify the collections that are important for your purposes? You begin by looking at the guides put out by the most important official repositories. The published guides are updated periodically, and most of these repositories by now have also posted online versions of their guides on their websites. Those websites, moreover, provide you with all kinds of practical information—about when the archive is open, about what you have to do to get access to its collections, about research grants, and so on.
A hard copy version, edited by
Robert Matchette et al., was published by
The National Archives also has a research guide for the Cold War era.
List of collections with links to online finding aids and digitized documents; the finding aids are keyword searchable.
Truman Papers (many finding aids linked)
Other collections of papers (many finding aids linked)
List of Finding Aids (with many links to the finding aids themselves)
Presidential recordings: listed and described in that finding aid; descriptions linked to actual tapes (so you can listen online). Note also the material on the Miller Center Presidential Recordings Program website. Six volumes of transcripts are available for purchase (as of October 2017).
My “Guide to the Kennedy Tapes and Other Source Material Available Online Relating to U.S. policy on Vietnam, 1961-63” might also be worth looking at if you plan on using the Kennedy tapes. Although it deals mainly with Vietnam-related material, it might help you learn how to use the tapes even if you’re working on some other topic.
Research page (with links to finding aids)
Subject guides (NATO, Vietnam, nuclear weapons, etc.)
LBJ phone conversations (index can be used in conjunction with the tapes on the Miller Center website). Much of this material has been published: The Presidential Recordings: Lyndon B. Johnson; a digital edition is also available
Virtual Library with links to new release announcements, which often have links to full text of a number of documents
Nixon tapes (finding aid)
Nixon tapes (online).
Tapes and transcripts are also available on the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Programs’s website and at Luke Nichter’s Nixontapes.org website (transcripts and mp3 audios)
Richard Moss, “Flawed FRUS? Pitfalls with the Nixon Tapes and How to Avoid Them”
New releases (in response to mandatory declassification review requests); some documents can be viewed online
Edward Keefer, “Key Sources for Nixon’s Foreign Policy” (SHAFR Newsletter, 2007)
Edward C. Keefer, John M. Carland, and Bradley L. Coleman, Foreign Relations of the United States Guide to Sources on Vietnam, 1969-1975 (2012)
Guide (with links to finding aids)
Memoranda of Presidential Conversations (includes late Nixon period)
Kissinger phone conversations
Some documents from the Carter Library have been posted on the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website
Jimmy Carter and Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs Subject file (microfilm, from Primary Source Media) (with link to guide)
A collection of documents from this repository is available on the Reagan Files website, put together by Jason Saltoun-Ebin, author of The Reagan Files
H.W. Bush Library,
George W. Bush Library, Dallas, Texas
U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
Air Force Historical Support Division (USAF “book writing element”)
Note also: Guide to United States Naval Administrative Histories of World War II (with links to full-text histories). The Hyperwar website has links to full-text versions of many official World War II military histories.
Captured records relating to Saddam’s
There are many research guides link to the catalogue’s homepage, and the listings themselves often have a lot of interesting material. I should also note that the old PRO published a number of handbooks that are still helpful:
The online catalogue should give you most of the information you need, but in some cases you may want to consult a printed finding aid. Some of these were published in facsimile form by the List and Index Society and can be consulted in American research libraries and sometimes they’re a little easier to use than the online guide. Remember also that some of the collections covered here have been reproduced in microfilm collections discussed in an earlier section of this appendix.
List and Index Society Lists (CD1043 L696L):
Vols. 29, 41 and 52: Cabinet Office Subject Index of C.P. Papers (Cabinet Memoranda), 1919-1922 (for part of CAB 24)
Vol. 40, 51: Cabinet Office Subject Index of War Cabinet Minutes 1916 Dec. – 1919 Dec. (for part of CAB 23)
Vols. 61 and 62: Subject Indexes of Cabinet Office Conclusions 1919 Nov. – 1921 Dec. (for CAB 23/18 through CAB 23/28)
Vol. 73 and 74: Subject Indexes of War Cabinet Minutes 1939 Sept. – 1941 Dec. and 1942 Jan. – 1945 July (CAB 65)
Vols. 92 and 100: Subject Index of Cabinet Conclusions, 1922-Jan.-Oct. (for part of CAB 23)
Vol. 126: Prime Minister’s Office Class List (PREM 1-6)
Vols. 131, 140 and 162: Cabinet Office Class Lists: Parts I (CAB 1-36; 39, 40), II (CAB 43-47; 50-55, 57, 58; 60-100) and III (CAB 101-103, 105-111, 115, 117-119)
Vol. 136: List of War Cabinet Memoranda, 1939 Sept. – 1945 July (CAB 66)
Vol. 148: Cabinet Office list of War Cabinet memoranda (WPG & WPR series), 1939 Sept.-1942 Dec. (CAB 67 & 68)
Vol. 156: Cabinet Office War Cabinet memoranda : general index of GT papers 1-8412 1916 Dec.-1919 Oct. (CAB 24/6-90)
Vol. 199: Ramsay Macdonald Correspondence 1890-1937 (PRO 30/69)
Vol. 230: Foreign Office General Correspondence: Political 1952 (FO 371/96642 through FO 371/102560)
Vol. 239: Foreign Office General Correspondence: Political 1954 (FO 371/108095 through FO 371/113216)
In France, there are several main repositories you should know about: the Archives nationales, the Foreign Ministry Archives (which is a separate unit), and the Service historique de la Défense, also not part of the Archives nationales.
At the Archives nationales, the most important collections for people in our field are the papers of the chiefs of state (AG), and the collections of private papers (AP). Inventories for both collections are available online: AG. Papiers des chefs de l'État (through Sarkozy—for detailed finding aids, click where it says “voir l’Etat général des fonds mis à jour”) and État sommaire des fonds d’archives privées: Série AP (1 à 671 AP) (slow download—this has over a thousand pages). There are various guides that show which parts of that series deal with specific areas: papers of government officials (20th century), political parties, newspapers and journalists, politicians in the Fourth and Fifth Republics, and diplomats, for example. A number of inventories for particular collections in that series are available online; for a list, click here. To see some of this material (in both the AG and the AP series), special permission is required. Better check first—you’re not always told that you need to get permission in advance.
If you’re interested in working at the Archives nationales, you might want to consult some published guides:
Les Archives nationales: État général des fonds, ed. J. Favier et al., 5 vols. (Paris: Archives nationales, 1978-88)
Les Archives nationales: État des inventaires, ed. J. Favier et al., 4 vols. (Paris: Archives nationales, 1985-2000)
Guide des papiers des ministres et secrétaires d’État de 1871 à 1974, ed. C. de Tourtier-Bonazzi and F. Pourcelet (Paris: Archives nationales, 1984)
La seconde guerre mondiale: Guide des sources conservées en France, 1939-1945, ed. B. Blanc, H. Rousso, and C. de Tourtier-Bonazzi (Paris: Archives nationales, 1994)
You might also want to look at the “Salle des inventaires virtuelle” on the Archives nationales website. For certain purposes, a general page describing their holdings (post-1789) and giving links to more detailed finding aids might be useful; to see it, click here.
For the Foreign Ministry, there are also a number of published guides:
Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Les Archives du ministère des Relations extérieures depuis l'origine: histoire et guide, 2 vols. (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1984-1985).
Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Etat général des inventaires des Archives diplomatiques (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1987)
Paul M. Pitman, Petit
guide du lecteur des Archives du Quai d'Orsay
The Service historique de la Défense has posted some finding aids on its website; click here and here. A little brochure giving basic information is available online. A detailed guide to the holdings of the army branch of that archive (the former Service historique de l’Armée de Terre, or SHAT) has been published:
France. Armée de Terre. Service historique [Jean-Claude Devos and Marie-Anne Corvisier-de Villèle], Guide des archives et sources complémentaires (Vincennes: Service historique de l'armée de terre, 1996).
You can find other inventories to those collections by doing an author
search in a library catalogue (like MELVYL) for “
But many interesting sources are not to be found in those main national
repositories. Collections of
personal papers are often very valuable, and although some of them—especially
There are other important repositories you might want to check out. The Mudd Library at Princeton, for example, and the Hoover Institution at Stanford (finding aids) each house important archival collections of interest to people in our field. The Mudd Library has made some important material available online.
For a much fuller listing of archival collections in
This is an important research tool, but it’s not quite as good as you might think. I did a spot check, and a couple of collections I’ve used—the Bernard Brodie Papers at UCLA and the Lauris Norstad Papers at the Eisenhower library—did not even come up when I did keyword searches for Brodie’s and Norstad’s last names. Still, you can identify many sources using Archives Finder.
You can also use WorldCat
to identify archival material. You can
do a WorldCat search directly by going into the advanced MELVYL search
engine. Just make sure you select
“Libraries Worldwide” and not “
This technique, moreover,
is particularly useful for identifying archival material dealing with a
particular subject. Say you did an
author search “Kissinger, Henry” and then limited the listings to “Archival
Materials.” One of the items that come
up is the Kissinger Papers at the Library of Congress. When you click into that listing, you see a
whole series of linked subject headings.
One of them is “
If you’re interested in working with collections of papers in
Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Surveys of Historical Manuscripts in the United Kingdom: A Select Bibliography, 2nd ed. (London : HMSO, 1994) Z2016 .G74 1994
Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Record repositories in