Appendix II:  Working with Primary Sources

Supplement to Marc Trachtenberg, The Craft of International History, Princeton University Press, 2006

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This webpage has been archived and will be available—in principle, in perpetuity—through the Wayback Machine at*/  If that link doesn’t work—or for some reason one of the backslashes often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 ( on the main Wayback Machine website (





Contents of this page:

I. Published collections of documents

II. Microfilm, Microfiche, and CD-ROM sources

Microfilm collections: guides

UPA (JCS papers; NSC papers)

Adam Matthew

US National Archives; National Archives publications of German documents

British materials

III. Online Sources


Digital National Security Archive; National Security Archive

Cold War International History Project

State Department material

CIA material

Defense Department FOIA release list

IV. Archival Sources

U.S. National Archives

Presidential Libraries

Military archives

British National Archives

French archives

German archives

Manuscript sources (both U.S. and non-U.S.)

Russian materials

Doing research at the U.S. National Archives

V. Open Sources



Executive branch (U.S.)

Other countries

VI. Getting to see classified material (and other misc. matters)

VII. Some Practical Information  (copying documents, housing, funding)  



I. Published Documents


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:

FRUS: The Conference at Berlin (Potsdam) D734.B4 U58; Law JX1417 .U55b 1960

FRUS: Japan 1931-1941  E183.8.J2 U5; Law JX233 .J3 1943

FRUS: The Paris Peace Conference, 1919 (13 vols.) D642 .U5; Law JX1416 .U55p 1942

FRUS: The Lansing Papers  E766 .U58

FRUS: Conferences at Malta and at Yalta D734.A1 U58


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)

Searching strategies


Documents diplomatiques français (various series, covering from 1871 through the 1960s). List by collection Many volumes are now also available in pdf format; see the list on the publisher’s website.

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:

Series D (1937-45), vol. 4  

Series D (1937-45), vol. 5

Series D (1937-45), vol. 6

Series D (1937-45), vol. 7

Series D (1937-45), vol. 8

Series D (1937-45), vol. 12

Series D (1937-45), vol. 13

Akten der Reichskanzlei: Weimarer Republik (1919-1933)

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 Russia) and Norman Naimark’s “Cold War Studies and New Archival Materials on Stalin,” Russian Review (January 2002).



You should remember, of course, that other governments—Australia, Canada, Italy, and Belgium to name just a few of the western ones—also publish collections of documents.   The Documents on Australian Foreign Policy for 1937-59  (20 vols.); the Documents on Canadian External Relations  (the 18 vols. covering 1946-63); and the Documenti Diplomatici Italiani are available online.  And there are many published collections of documents that are not put out by governments at all. Some deal with particular topics.  Some are collections—often multi-volume collections—of a particular individual’s papers.  These can generally be found using the techniques outlined in Chapter Five, especially the technique of using the word “sources” as one of your subject words when you do a subject search in a library catalogue, and the technique of putting words like “papers” and “correspondence” in the title field at the same time as you search for a particular subject.  Important collections are also cited in the bibliographies of the books and dissertations you look at, and are sometimes also cited in the major collections of diplomatic documents that I just listed.  They can in addition be found in bibliographies like the Bibliographie für Zeitgeschichte [Z6205 .B47; *Z6204 .B59 1982], interspersed with listings of books and articles dealing with the same general subject. 



II. Microfilm, Microfiche, and CD-ROM Material


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 University of California system;  “Libraries Worldwide” should appear in the “Narrow Your Search” section of the search engine.

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 “Japan—Foreign Relations,” namely “Archives in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” So you click into the “A” list. The collections are listed there in alphabetical order by title.

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 Far East.  Some user guides have been posted online.  To find them do a Google search for “user guide” plus the name of the collection you’re interested in.


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:

Eisenhower National Security Files (with online guides)

John F. Kennedy National Security Files, 1961-1963:
(MicroServ UA855 .J64 1988, with guide)

The Lyndon B. Johnson National Security Files, 1963-1969 (with guides)
(MicroServ DT38 .L96 1987, with guide)

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)


Nixon National Security Files


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 Paperssubsets 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:

Part 1: National Security Advisor’s Files, Section 1: Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific  [Guide]

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:

Part 1: The Moscow Summit and the Dissolution of the USSR  [Guide]

Part 2: Bosnia and the Situation in the Former Yugoslavia  [Guide]

Part 3: Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Reunification of Germany  [Guide]

Part 4: The Middle East Peace Conference Madrid, Spain  [Guide]


Cyprus Crisis, 1967: The State Department’s Crisis Files  [Guide]


U.S. Relations with Panama and Operation Just Cause  [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 Stanford University and at the Lamont Library at Harvard (pdf guide).

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:

Foreign Office Files for China, 1949-1980

The Nixon Years, 1969-1974 (key collections from the British National Archives at Kew)

Macmillan Cabinet Papers, 1957-1963



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 (Washington: NARA, 2000).  There is also an online version of the National Archives microfilm catalog.    If you use the online version, click “advanced search.”  You can search by subject term or by record group.  (The holdings at the National Archives are divided up into over 500 record groups.)  As it turns out, only a small number of record groups are of interest for our purposes—I’ll be telling you what they are in the section about archives—and there are microfilm publications listed for only a handful of them.  And of those, only two are of really fundamental importance:


                        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 Germany.  Probably the most valuable of those is microfilm publication T120, Records of the German Foreign Office Received by the Department of State, which contains over 5800 reels.  There are two guides that can be used in conjunction with this collection:


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 the University of California system (items from other UC libraries are very easy to get using the “Request” button).  Many items that turn up in such a search may have also turned up in your search of the various publishers’ websites I listed above.  You can target the search more narrowly by adding other keywords, like the name of another particular country—“Japan,” for example.  


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 “Great Britain. Cabinet Office” and following some of the links that turn up.  Here’s a list of the most important of those holdings that I found in MELVYL.  They’re listed in order by class number, classes being the basic units into which departmental collections are divided in the British National Archives.  The class numbers themselves are noted in brackets, as is their current location.  As you’ll see, many of them have to be ordered through inter-library loan from the Center for Research Libraries [CRL] or from other campuses in the UC system.  But this is very easy to do through MELVYL:  just click the “request” button toward  the top of a particular listing.  The listings marked with an asterisk are, as it turned out, covered by finding aids published by the List and Index Society (CD1043 L696L), which I’ll talk about in more detail later in the section on archival research.  But note that many Cabinet papers from the period from 1919 to 1986 are available online, as noted below.


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:  [1] 1916 Dec.-1918 Mar.; [2] 1918 Apr.-1919 Dec.; [3] 1939 Sept.-1941; Dec.[4] 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




III. Online Sources


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,” “China and East Asia,” “U.S. Intelligence,” “Humanitarian Interventions,” and so on).  But there are other documents posted there not found in those briefing books.  See, for example, their webpage on the “Carter-Brezhnev Project,” which includes a number of briefing books containing documents that were assembled in conjunction with various conferences that project organized.

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 Miller Center at the University of Virginia.  Their Presidential Recordings Program has a website at which you can find tapes and transcripts of recordings made by every U.S. president from Roosevelt to Nixon.  And many oral history interviews are available online.  See, for example, the interviews done for the CSIS’s US-UK Nuclear History Project and the Brookings/CISSM NSC project oral history collection (listed at the bottom of the page).

Now let me turn to the official sources.  Many documents have been posted on various (mostly U.S.) government websites.  The presidential libraries—and I’ll be listing their websites below in the section on archives—have put many interesting documents online.  For example, at the Kennedy Library website you can see practically all the NSAMs—the National Security Action Memoranda—for the Kennedy period. At the Johnson Library website, you can access a number of oral histories, including the Rusk oral history.  The Ford Library also has some important material online. This includes a set of National Security Study Memoranda and Decision Memoranda; a set of Kissinger “memcons” (National Security Adviser:  Memoranda of Conservations) (includes some material from the late Nixon period); a set of NSC minutes, and a set of memcons and other material relating to Kissinger’s meetings with leaders of China, the USSR, and Middle Eastern countries. See also the page on “Digitized Memoranda of Presidential Conversations” in the Ford Library website.  These collections, and other collections that have been put online, are listed (with links) in the Ford Library Digital Collections webpage:  included documents on the Vladivostok summit and the Vietnam War, and the Arthur Burns diary (for 1969-74).  Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Ford’s NATO ambassador, has made a number of documents relating to this period available online: see the Rumsfeld Papers website. 

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—Chile,  Argentina, El Salvador, and certain other subjects.  As I noted in passing in the previous paragraph, a collection of transcripts of Henry Kissinger’s telephone conversations is also available here. To see what those collections are, click “Document Collections” on the search page.  When you click into the listing for a collection, a list of all the documents in that collection appears on the screen, but you can limit the number of hits by putting an additional term in the search box in that new window and then clicking “refine search.” There used to be more special collections on the website.  As the State Department’s FOIA office pointed out in its report for 2002, other collections included material relating to the “the disappearance and investigation of Amelia Earhart; and the disappearance in Hungary of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg during World War II” and a”collection about the creation of the OSS and subsequent establishment of the modern-day CIA.”  Those collections have now been removed from the special collections list, although the documents themselves will still turn up if you do a search in the main search engine.

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 (for the logs for 2005-2010) and in a second search  to (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: 

Declassified National Intelligence Estimates on the Soviet Union and International Communism

Declassified Intelligence Estimates on Selected Free World Countries

Declassified Intelligence Analyses on the Former Soviet Union Produced by CIA's Directorate of Intelligence

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 College Park, you can browse to that particular job, box, and folder, to find related documents.  All these things are explained in a CREST user manual from 2003 which has been posted on the Federation of American Scientists website. Although the system has been slightly updated, that manual will give you a good feel for how the system at College Park actually works today (May 2013).  For more information about the CREST system, click here or here (CIA press release).


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., “China,” “Germany,” “Coalition Provisional Authority,” etc.) within various categories.  But now, aside from the lists, your only option is to do a keyword search and then hope for the best. 

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 U.S. intelligence agencies.  The National Security Agency has posted various collections of material on its website.  For a list, and links to the collections themselves, click here.  There are collections on the Cuban Missile Crisis, Venona, and so on, as well as a whole series of cryptologic histories. 

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.


IV. Archival Sources

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.

In the United States, the presidential libraries and the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, are the most important repositories for our purposes, although some of the military services have major repositories of their own:

            National Archives website

                        Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

A hard copy version, edited by Robert Matchette et al., was published by NARA in 1995 (Maps/Govt * CD3023 .A46 1995). The most important thing to get from either version of the guide is a sense for which record groups you might want to work with.  The website has a page listing record groups by clusters that is particularly useful in this context.   You might also want to take a look at James E. David, Conducting Post-World War II National Security Research in Executive Branch Records: A Comprehensive Guide (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2001; UA23 D275 2001). It is important to remember that not every collection of interest to people in our field will turn up when you search the online guide by record group.  The collection of Robert S. McNamara papers, for example, cannot be identified in that way. But you can often find out about such sources by talking to the archivists (in this case, in Modern Military Records, which in fact has a list of privately donated material of this sort) or to other scholars.  You might, by the way, want to take a look at that online catalog before you go to the Archives.  Although it’s a bit unwieldy, it does have a lot of information.


The National Archives also has a research guide for the Cold War era.



Presidential Libraries:


            Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York

Archives page

                                    List of collections with links to online finding aids and digitized documents; the finding aids are keyword searchable. 


Truman Library, Independence, Missouri

            Subject Guides

            Truman Papers (many finding aids linked)

            Other collections of papers (many finding aids linked)

“Foreign Policy and the Truman Administration:  Historical Resources at the Harry S Truman Library” (Randy Sowell)


Eisenhower Library, Abilene Kansas

List of Finding Aids (with many links to the finding aids themselves)

“Declassification at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library” (David Haight)

Declassified documents (2015) (2014) (2013) (2012) (2011) (2010) (pre-2010)

Online documents


Kennedy Library, Boston, Massachusetts

            Search Engine; Finding Aids

Research Guides

National Security Files (finding aid) (partially digitized)

Digital Collections

President’s Office Files (fully digitized—facsimiles available online) (finding aid—with links to documents)

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).

Oral histories

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. 


Johnson Library, Austin, Texas.

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

NSAMs (25% digitized as of October 2017);  NSC meetings (5% digitized as of October 2017)

LBJ and Foreign Affairs (microfilm, from Primary Source Media): subject file; Vietnam file (linked to guides)


Nixon Library, Yorba Linda, California (from July 1, 2010)

Information for researchers

Collections (with links to finding aids)

Collections by subject

NSC Files

National Security Memoranda (with links to NSSMs and NSDMs)

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 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)



Ford Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan

            Guide (with links to finding aids)

Passport guide

Digital Collections—Foreign Affairs and National Security

Memoranda of Presidential Conversations (includes late Nixon period)

NSC meeting minutes

NSSM’s and NSDM’s

Kissinger phone conversations

National Security Advisor’s papers (microfilm, from Primary Source Media): part 1 (linked to guide); part 2 (presidential correspondence and conversations with foreign leaders)


Carter Library, Atlanta, Georgia

            Research page.

Digital Library

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)


Reagan Library, Simi Valley, California

            List of collections


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


George H.W. Bush Library, College Station, TX

Textual archives page, with links to finding aids, pdf guide, and scanned documents (broken down by category:  Memcons/Telcons, NSC meetings, China documents, and so on)


Clinton Library, Little Rock, Arkansas

Digital Library


George W. Bush Library, Dallas, Texas

Research page

Finding aids

Digital Library



Military Archives:


            U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center

Research catalogue


Air Force Historical Research Agency

            Personal Papers

Numbered historical studies (links to texts)

Air Force Historical Support Division (USAF “book writing element”)

Guide to Air Force Historical Literature, 1943-83


                        Naval History and Heritage Command

Research page


Finding aids                           

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.


Conflict Records Research Center, National Defense University

Captured records relating to Saddam’s Iraq and Al Qaeda; as of September 2010 over 30,000 pages had been made available, but the CRRC closed down in June 2015.  It may, however, be able to reopen if it can find a new home, presumably outside the government.


MERLN (Military Education Research Library Network) Digital Collections



In Britain, the most important repository is now also called the National Archives.  It is located in the village of Kew, between Heathrow Airport and central London. Its most important part used to be called the Public Record Office [PRO], and you’ll still often see it referred to by that name.  You can work with this repository’s online catalogue in two ways:  by browsing through the listings there or by conducting a search.  To browse, you first look up the code for the department of government you’re interested in (“FO” for Foreign Office, “CAB” for Cabinet Office, “PREM” for Prime Minister’s Office, and “DEFE” for the Ministry of Defence, are the most important ones for our purposes).  Then, under “Browse,” click into the corresponding letter, and then click into the code corresponding to the department you’re interested in.  Then click the tab for “Browse by Reference.” On the page that turns up, you’ll see a column on the right listing the “classes” that that collection is broken down into (like “FO 371,” the political correspondence of the Foreign Office).  When you click into the listing there for one of those classes, you’ll see that it is broken down into what are called “pieces”—that is, boxes, bound volumes, or even file folders—which, like the classes themselves, are numbered consecutively, beginning with 1.  You can also use the catalogue to search for a particular subject—for example, “nuclear planning group.”  Click here to order material in advance of your visit.  If you already have a reader’s ticket, you can put in a bulk order (for up to 50 pieces with successive piece numbers)—click here.


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:


Great Britain, Public Record Office, The Records of the Foreign Office, 1782-1968, 2nd ed. (RichmondPublic Record Office, 2002) CD1051 .A6 2002


Great Britain, Public Record Office, The Records of the Cabinet Office to 1922 (London: H.M.S.O., 1966)  CD1047 .C3 1966


Great Britain, Public Record Office Classes of Departmental Papers for 1906-1939 (London, H.M.S.O., 1966).  CD1046 1966 .A5


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
(Paris: Association des Amis des Archives diplomatiques, 1993).  Also available in English.

Some finding aids have been posted Archives diplomatiques website. 

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 “France. Armée de Terre. Service historique” and at the same time searching for the word “inventaire” in the title field. If you are working on the Cold War period, you might also want to take a look at Piers Ludlow’s article, “No Longer a Closed Shop:  Post-1945 Research in the French Archives,”  which originally appeared in the October 2001 issue of Cold War Studies.  A wonderful collection of Charles de Gaulle’s public appearances (including his famous “press conferences”) is available online (audios, videos, transcripts) and is very much worth taking a look at.

In Germany, the Foreign Office also has its own archive.  The website for the Political Archive contains a lot of very useful information.  But quite a few important sources are also available in the Bundesarchiv, Germany’s national archives.  Many published finding aids for the Bundesarchiv collections are listed in the online Guide to Inventories and Finding Aids at the German Historical Institute Washington, D.C. (under “K” for “Koblenz,” where the Bundesarchiv is located.)  Note also Frank Schumacher, Archives in Germany: An Introductory Guide to Institutions and Sources (Washington: GHI 2001), and also two guides dealing with the East German archives:   Cyril Buffet's Guide des archives de l'Allemagne de l'Est, put out by the Centre Franco-Allemand de Recherches en Sciences Sociales in Berlin in 1994, and Bernd Schäfer, Henning Hoff, and Ulrich Mählert, The GDR in German Archives: A New Resource Guide (Washington: GHI, 2002).  The GHI will send hard-copy versions of any of its guides to you for free upon request.  Incidentally, any American scholar planning to do historical research in Germany should become familiar with the GHI website, which is packed with useful information, including information about funding. The Bundesarchiv has made some material from its East German collections available on its website.  Note also their webpage on the East German archives (SAPMO). Finally, if you are doing work in this area, you might also want to check out the Germanic Research Web’s page on manuscripts and archives.

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 in France—can be found in the main national repositories, as a general rule are housed in all sorts of places.   How do you about identifying collections of papers that might be important for your purposes?  You can begin by looking at some of the obvious places.  In the United States, for example, many important collections can be found in the Library of Congress Manuscript Room.  You could begin by logging into their basic search engine.  For a list of subject categories, click the link for “subject” on the right. Choose, for example, National Security—United States; there are also many lists dealing with “United States—Foreign Relations”.  Many of those listings have finding aids attached.  For more information, see John Earl Haynes, “Researching American Foreign Relations at the Library of Congress,” Passport: The Newsletter of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, 39:3 (January 2009).

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 U.S. (and British and Irish) repositories, your best bet is to use Archive Finder, an online publication from ProQuest.  Archive Finder (which incorporates the old ArchivesUSA) brings together the information from two separate sources:  (a) the information published the National Union Catalogue of Manuscript Collections [NUCMC], the standard catalogue of material in this area, which was published in hard-copy from 1959 to 1993, and (b) the information included in ProQuest’s own publication, the National Inventory of Document Sources or NIDS (about which more later), including NIDS UK/Ireland.  You can search by name or by keyword; links in many of the listings will actually give you the “index terms” a particular item is listed under. This allows you to do a keyword search for particular terms that are of interest to you.

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 “University of California Libraries” in the “Narrow Your Search” section at the bottom of the screen.  The results of your search will be listed in the next window.  You can then limit the listings by selecting “archival material” from the dro-p-down menu for “format” at the bottom of the screen.  Some of that archival material is in fact available on microfilm, and if you home library doesn’t own it, you might be able to request it through inter-library loan. 

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 “United States—Foreign Relations—China.”  Click into that subject link.  Over 11,000 items turn up, but you can check the “Archival Materials” box at the left, you can generate a list of only a few hundred items.  You can in that way locate some sources you perhaps did not know about dealing with that particular subject.

For Britain, you can search for a particular individual on the National Archives website.  That search will turn up listings not just at the National Archives but in many other repositories as well.  The old National Register of Archives, the successor to the even older Historical Manuscripts Commission, has not been fully integrated into the National Archives, so you can no longer search by title of collection (although you can search for particular repositories).  But in practice this is not much of a problem, since the main collection, if it exists, is easy enough to identify.  Some research guides are also available online at this site.  Those guides have descriptions of and direct links to the main repositories in a given area. See, for example, the guide to sources for the history of the armed forces.  One of the archives mentioned there, the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at Kings College London, has particularly good holdings and a very good website.  For the Thatcher period, a number of guides are available online on the Margaret Thatcher foundation website.  JANUS is a gateway website for archives and manuscripts in the Cambridge area.

If you’re interested in working with collections of papers in Britain, you might want to check out a couple of published guides:

Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Surveys of Historical Manuscripts in the United Kingdom: A Select Bibliography, 2nd ed. (London : HMSO, 1994) Z2016 .G74 1994

Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Record repositories in Great Britain: A Geographical Directory (London : HMSO, 1991) CD1040 .G73 1991


In Germany, the institutions set up by the main political parties—the Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik (part of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung) for the CDU and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung for the SPD—are home to the papers of many individuals connected with those parties. If you’d like to cast a somewhat broader net, take a look at Erwin Welsch, Archives and Libraries in a New Germany (New York:  Council for European Studies, 1994)  REF Z675.H5 W45 1994.  Note also the Bundesarchiv’s Central Database for Personal Papers.

There’s a similar guide for France, by now a little out of date:  Erwin Welsch, Libraries and Archives in France:  A Handbook (New York:  Council for European Studies, 1979)  Z797.A1 W46 1979  A French website called “BORA” (“Base d’Orientation et de Recherche dans les Archives”) is worth looking at, if you’re interested in collections of private papers in France.  It now has references to material of this sort included in official repositories, and will eventually include collections of papers found in other kinds of repositories as well.  One particularly important repository is part of the Centre d’histoire at Sciences Po: the Archives d’histoire contemporaine; for a list of their collections, click here.

The Council for European Studies has a webpage with links to various European archives and libraries (and has also published a Guide to Institutions Focused on the Study of Europe).  There are various other gateway websites of this sort that you might find useful.  You can, for example, browse by country name for archives around the world on the British National Archives website.

If you’re interested in Russian material, be sure to check out the “ArchaeoBiblio Base” (formerly “Archives in Russia”)  website. This site is connected to the guide Archives of Russia: A Directory and Bibliographic Guide to Holdings in Moscow and St. Petersburg, 2 vols., ed. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 2000). See also Grimsted’s two-part CWIHP working paper, “The Russian Archives Seven Years After” (September 1998): part I and part II.   See also:

M.J. Berry and M.J. Ilic, Using the Russian Archives: An Informal Practical Guide for Beginners Based on Users' Experience, put out by the British Academic Committee for Collaboration With Russian Archives, in association with the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham (first published in July 1999; revised for electronic publication December 2002). 

Web-Based Information on Russian Archives (University of Warwick Economics Department)

Norman Naimark, “Cold War Studies and New Archival Materials on Stalin,” Russian Review 61, No. 1 (Jan., 2002). 

The Miller Center has a project focusing on materials from the Khrushchev era.

There is also some very useful information (about both archival and published Soviet sources) in Jonathan Haslam’s article, “Collecting and Assembling Pieces of the Jigsaw: Coping with Cold War Archives,” Cold War History, vol. 4, no. 3 (April 2004). This article also contains important information about a number of neglected archival sources (Italian, Brazilian, etc.). It’s one of a series of archival review articles published in that journal (which, by the way, is available online in a number of university libraries).  That series includes the Piers Ludlow article on French archival sources already cited, an article by Leopoldo Nuti on Italian archival sources (vol. 2, no. 3, April 2002), and a number of others.  I also found an article by David Messenger called “Researching Modern International History in Madrid” on the SHAFR website.  For the International Atomic Energy Agency, see Marko Miljković, “The Researchers’ Guide to the IAEE Archives” on the National Security Archive website.


So those are the basics.  That’s how you go about identifying the archival sources you might like to examine.  But once you’ve identified particular collections, you’d still like to get some sense for what they contain.  Of course, you could wait until you arrived at the archive to see what’s in those various collections.  The archivists will show you where the finding aids are, and might even provide you with certain finding aids that are not on the open shelves.  You could do it that way, but the odds are that you’d like to be able to do this kind of work before you leave home—if only to be able to get some rough sense for how much time you’d need to spend in a particular repository.  So is there a way of consulting those finding aids before you actually go to the archives?

Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no.  Many of the guides and search engines I’ve mentioned have links to finding aids.  When you find ones that are of interest, you might want to download or at least bookmark them.  And you can also try to see what’s included in an important publication, available in a number of university libraries and through inter-library loan:  the National Inventory of Documentary Sources [NIDS].  NIDS is basically a collection of many finding aids from various U.S. sources reproduced on microfiche.  You can see what they are by using the hard-copy guide.  Or you can use Archive Finder to see if a finding aid for a collection you’re interested in has been included in NIDS.  If it has, the “NIDS fiche number” will appear on the listing.  If you want to see which finding aids in a particular repository are included in NIDS, just enter the name of the repository in the repository field in the main Archives Finder search engine and under “search options,” select “NIDS Records Only.”

But it’s basically just a convenience to be able to get finding aids in advance.  And whether you can do so or not, the whole process of doing archival research—identifying collections, going through the finding aids, ordering the materials you’d like to see—is on the whole very straightforward.  There is, however, one exception to that general rule, and that has to do with the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

The National Archives can be a very confusing place until you get the hang of it, so let me talk a bit about how it works for people in our field.  I haven’t been to the National Archives for a number of years, so what I say here might be a little out of date.  But if you’ve never been there and plan on doing research there, this discussion might still be of some value.

When you get to the archives, the first thing you do is get an archives card. There is a small room on your right as you go in the door; they'll set you up at a computer, you enter some data, show them a picture i.d., and soon you'll have your card. You can't take things into the reading room with you without getting them specially stamped, so try to bring in as little as possible. You can drop off your extra stuff in a free locker--you need a quarter to operate it--in the basement. Then you go back to the first floor and through the control gate. After you’re checked through, you take the elevator to the second floor and go into main the reading room. After you check in there (by swiping your card—you do this either at the desk immediately to your right, or if it’s not open, at the main desk directly in front of you), you’ll probably want to start going through finding aids in order to identify the boxes you’d like to see. 

There are two ways you can do that.  You could either go into the glass-enclosed area (the sign reads “Researcher Assistance”) to your left as you enter the main reading room on the second floor.  The finding aids are arranged by record group around the wall of that area, except for the finding aids for RG 59 (the State Department materials), which are shelved after the other finding aids.  Or, if you want to see a more complete collection of finding aids, and maybe talk with the archivists as well, you could go to either to room 2400 (for modern military records) or to room 2600 (for civilian records). To go to one of those rooms, you’ll need to get a pass in that glass-enclosed area and also get an escort to take you down there. You can fill out your order forms (also often called a “pull slips” or “service slips”) in any of these places, but you now have to hand them in in a box provided for that purpose in the glass-enclosed area.  You will, incidentally, need to fill out a separate form for each box, except if a number of consecutively-numbered boxes are ordered, in which case a single form can be used.  But note that for any given pull time, you can order boxes from only one record group.  You can, however, order a whole cartload of boxes—that is, up to 24 of them at a time—for a given pull time, and a second cartload at another pull time. In that way, you can assure yourself of a continuous flow of material.  (You can put in a third request after you’ve returned the first cartload, and so on.)  Note when the boxes are pulled: 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 1:30 and 3:30. (This was the schedule the last time I was there, but you should check to see if the times have changed.)  Be sure to hand in your forms by those deadlines, because if you miss a deadline, you might have to wait an extra hour or two. This may not be a problem, of course, if you have other work in the finding aids to do, but it's a good idea to order your boxes early, because mistakes are sometimes made when boxes are pulled.

Room 2400 has finding aids not just for military records, but also for things like the CIA materials and such sources as the McNamara papers in RG [Record Group] 200.  Room 2600 has finding aids for the State Department records in RG 59 and various other collections of interest, such as the NSC records in RG 273. Whichever room you got to first, unless you know your way around, you’ll probably want to meet with an archivist who will explain the basics to you and set you up with some finding aids.  Indeed, even if you’ve been there before, you might want ot talk with an archivist if you’re embarking on a new project.

Let me talk first about the State Department materials, and especially about the finding aids in Room 2600;  I’ll talk about the finding aids in Room 2400 a little later.  The State Department records are broken down into two parts: the Central File, and the Lot Files. (The Lot Files are generally the records of specific offices in the State Department.) The Central File is itself broken down into various parts, based on method of classification. Until January 1963, a decimal system was used, so these are often called the "decimal files." From 1963 to 1973, the record keepers used a "subject-numeric" system, and in 1973 the system was changed again.  (On these systems, see Gerald Haines and J. Samuel Walker, “Some Sources and Problems for Diplomatic Historians in the Next Two Decades,” in Gerald Haines and J. Samuel Walker, American Foreign Relations: A Historiographical Review [Westport: Greenwood Press, 1981], esp. pp. 336-341.) Various finding aids for parts of the central files are available at the National Archives--for example, the “Purport Lists for the Department of State Decimal File, 1910-1944,” a very detailed, document-by-document list (also available as National Archives microfilm publication M973; 654 rolls). The “Records Codification Manual” for the 1950-1963 records is also available on a single roll of microfilm (publication M1275).  See also the information given for file 59.2.5 in the section on RG 59 in the National Archives online guide.

The forms for boxes in the State Department Central Files are relatively easy to fill out. For the decimal series, you need in write in, in the big space at the bottom of the form where it says “record identification,” the decimal number and the date, i.e., something like “740.5611 for 1957-59.” For the line above, you also need to fill in the first two boxes, the RG number (59) and the stack area (250)—which is the same for all these records. I've included a typical service slip for the decimal files as a link.  (Note that on all these service slips, in the box that says “Agency or Address” you should now write in your six-digit archives card number.)

But how do you get the decimal number in the first place? There is a brief guide with the finding aids in Room 2600 (the archivists will show it to you) which explains the structure of the system and tells you what the numbers mean, but that index is inadequate. For example, you can't just look up “Euratom” in the index and learn that 840.1901 is where documents on U.S. policy toward Euratom are located. You can ask the archivists to help you, but often these collections are so massive that even they do not know how to find things either. Basically there are three main series of interest here, the 600, 700, and 800 series. 6xx.yy deals with political relations between country xx and yy; 7xx.subj deals with political and military affairs for country (or region) xx; 8xx.subj deals with internal economic and social affairs. Some of the main country codes are: 11 for US, 41 for Britain, 51 for France, 62 for Germany, 62a for West Germany, 61 for Russia. The same system is also used for regions: 00 for general, 40 for Europe, 50 for continental western Europe. Some of the main subject codes for our purposes are: 5 for defense, 56 for equipment, 5611 for nuclear, 5612 for missiles, and (for the 800 series), 1901 for atomic energy. The archival citation given for each document in the Foreign Relations series will help you find you way around the decimal files. (By the way, most of the volumes in this series are on the open shelves in the main reading room, so you don't have to lug your own copies from home, and you can easily compare the text of the archival version with the one found in FRUS to see what's worth photocopying.  Actually, they’re all available online nowadays, so you don’t even have to use the hard copies, unless you’re like me and prefer them to their online equivalents.)

It is important to realize that it takes a while to get used to this system, and it often does not work the way you think it would. A lot of material on U.S.-German relations is not in 611.62, as you might think, but rather in 762.00 (“Germany—General”), and there is some good material also in 740.5. Or who would guess that 740.56 seems to be the main file on nuclear sharing and the FIG agreements (a plan for joint nuclear production between France, Italy and Germany)? Not that these files are all that rich. You wade through a lot of junk (maybe 90% of these documents aren't worth reading), and although there are a handful of interesting documents, one of the main things to note here are the cards telling you which documents have been withdrawn. If the titles look interesting, you might want to jot down the reference for a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request. You should note also how you can "spread out" from the files you're going through, since when you get an interesting document, it's often marked up in the margins with cross references to other decimal files which you can then order. To save time, you can also order boxes in advance by calling the National Archives directly. This is especially useful if you do preliminary work in NIDS.

Now let me talk about the subject-numeric part of the State Department central files, for documents from about February 1963 on.  How do you find your way around the subject-numeric files?  There is a short guide giving a rough explanation of this system, and again there are the references in FRUS, but your basic entrée here is the box list in the “State Department group” of finding aids in room 2600. The box list, however, gives only a fairly minimal idea of what each box contains, so you may have to grope around a bit. You order by box number. A typical order slip for the subject-numeric files is attached as a link.


The lot files are more difficult to use. There is a book by Gerald Haines describing the lot files:


Gerald Haines, A Reference Guide to United States Department of State Special Files (Westport: Greenwood, 1985).  CD3031 H35 1985


You can also often find lists of relevant lot files at the beginning of various FRUS volumes. Your main entrée into the lot files, however, will probably be the finding aids in the “State Department group” in room 2600 (on the left toward the back as you walk in). There are two looseleaf binders labeled “Office Files/Lot Files.” One lists what is available by office and the other by entry number (also called MLR number). You’d then look for finding aids for whatever collections you’ve identified in those binders by consulting other binders in the “State Department group” of finding aids in that room, binders labeled by either region or topic.  When you go through the finding aids in those binders, note the lot number, MLR number, and brief title, the numbers (and something about the content) of the boxes you’re interested in, and above all, the location number for that lot file. The location number is generally, but not always, written by hand into the finding aid, and looks something like this: 250/D/15/06, or 250/62/23/5.


When it’s not written in, you can find it by looking up the entry (or MLR) number in one of the Master Location Register binders to the left of the door (as you’re looking from inside the finding aids room); three binders cover RG 59.  (There’s another set in the glass-enclosed area off the main reading room.) Most entries have a simple four-digit number—e.g., 5301 for NATO Affairs, 1959-1966—and are listed sequentially starting at the beginning of the first of the three MLR binders; for those listings, “A1” appears just above the entry number on the “Finding Aid” line.  But if you’re interested in an entry number that begins with “UP”—for example, UP-025, the Hillenbrand Papers—you’ll have to go to the end of the A1 listings and then through the UD listings until you see “UD-UP” on the “Finding Aid” line. 


You might not be able to locate finding aids for every lot file that interests you.  If you can’t find a finding aid, be sure to consult one of the archivists who specializes in that particular record group.  He or she may be able to provide you with at least a rudimentary box list for that collection.  But if you can’t get even that, there’s no need to give up.  Don’t forget that you can still order some or all of the boxes in those collections, which is something in fact that you might want to do, especially if there are a small number of boxes in the lot file in question.


Getting the location number is very important, since you’ll need it to fill out your order form. You put it in the second through fifth boxes located right above the big "record identification" box. If a particular collection extends over a number of shelves or even compartments, you need only put the starting location. (See the example I put online.)  You can also tell from the location number if the collection is still classified (in which case you can’t order it, but you can put in a FOIA request for some or all of the material it contains—a form for this purpose is available in the glass-enclosed area in the main reading room).  Files in stack area 631—that is, with a location number beginning with 631—fall in this category. 

Another important binder in the State Department Group of finding aids in Room 2600 is labeled “Conference Files.” This collection contains the records of meetings held by U.S. officials on trips, mostly abroad. For example, if you order "Conference Files for 1964-66, CF 268-269, boxes 465-466," at 150/68/28/1-7, you'll get the records of the U.S. Balance of Payments Mission to Europe of January 1968. In the back of the Conference Files binder, you'll also see a list of materials under the heading “Executive Secretariat, Briefing Books, 1958-76.” This contains some interesting material you might be surprised to find here. Boxes 3-9 in this collection, for example, contain a set of documents on U.S. relations with France, June 1958 through February 1963 (Lot 69D 150, 150/68/1/2-7).

I should note more generally that there are often hidden treasures in RG 59, and it’s often hard to know how to go about discovering them. One often just stumbles across them in the course of looking for something else. For example, there’s a part of RG 59 devoted to the State Department's Division of Historical Policy Research and its Predecessors, and part of this has 16 boxes of “Special Studies and Reports, 1944-50.” It’s located in 150/46/08-09/06-07. Box 4 (report no. 84) has about 400 pages of top secret teletype conferences between the State Department and the London embassy relating to the Berlin blockade affair of 1948. Box 5 has three bound volumes on the Moscow Foreign Ministers' Conference of 1947. Boxes 7-16 have an enormous amount of material on the Middle East, 1946-48. But you only find out about these things by poking around.

Those State Department materials in RG 59 are very important. Certain other record groups might be worth exploring, but there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed by what you find in those collections.  The NSC documents in RG 273, for example, are not particularly rich.  If you’re interested in NSC material, you’d be much better off going to the presidential libraries. The National Archives does, however, have a few things that might be worth looking at for certain purposes.  There is a card catalogue in Room 2600 listing the formal NSC papers, and, as I said before, there is also a list in the Haines book. Using those lists, you can request files corresponding to specific NSC documents (NSC 68 and so on).  You can also request the file for a particular NSC meeting, using (if you’re interested in the Eisenhower period) the guide to the NSC meetings I gave you above.

Now let me talk the other main collection of finding aids—the ones relating to military sources available in Room 2400.  The military sources are very rich. The most important military source is RG 218, the JCS records. For materials dealing with the period through 1958, you give your request by citing a CCS number, which derives from the filing system developed for the US-British Combined Chiefs of Staff during World War II. You request, for example, “CCS 092 Germany (5-4-49) for 1958.” For the period from 1959 on, a different system was used. There are guides that explain these systems, but it is a very good idea to ask for help from the archivists. I've appended a typical cover sheet from the JCS papers for 1961. Note the list of "cross index numbers" toward the top. This sort of thing can be quite useful for “spreading out” and figuring out which boxes to order next. Another way of getting at this source, as I noted above, is by using the JCS histories, both published and unpublished.

The Modern Military Records division at the National Archives has other record groups that are of some interest, especially for the period prior to about 1954—e.g., RG 330, the records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). There is an official History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, seven volumes of which, covering the 1947-1973 period, have been published so far.  All are available online:

History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, gen. ed. Alfred Goldberg  (Washington: OSD Historical Office, 1984-    ). UA23.6 .H57 

It makes sense to look at those volumes first, before you go to the archives.

The Defense Department has also posted on its website a series of oral history transcripts of interviews with top Pentagon officials (link).  The DoD Historical Office has also posted a series of special studies dealing with the history of the Defense Department from 1947 to 1973 (link).  There are also webpages for various strategy documents (link to national security documents; link to defense strategy documents; link to military strategy documents).

The footnotes in that series might help you find your way around this source.  And you can use whatever help you can get, because this is not a particularly easy record group to find your way around.  The same CCS system is used here as in RG 218, but apparently in a completely different way.

So how then do you use RG 330?   In the finding aid room off of Room 2400, there are two binders (one black, one white), each broken down into two halves (NM-12 and A-1), listing all the available components in RG 330 by entry number. Sometimes an entry number is for an index to a collection listed under another entry number. It turns out, for example, that the most important source in this collection for 1950-51 is Entry 199, OSD materials for July 1950-December 1951. But there is a very large number of boxes in Entry 199. So to identify what you want, you need to go into Entry 198, boxes 7-14, the Index for July 1950-December 1951. This gives you the file numbers for files in Entry 199. You then go to the Entry 199 folder in the RG 330 box in the finding aids room, figure out which boxes in Entry 199 correspond to the files (listed by CD number) you've identified from the index in Entry 198, and put in your request for those boxes—getting the stack location numbers from the looseleaf binders. Is it any wonder that not too many people use this source, especially when you realize that the declassifiers were notoriously conservative in releasing material in this collection? And yet it really is worth the trouble sometimes--you do come across gems in this collection from time to time, real nuggets of gold unavailable elsewhere.



V. Open Sources

Some topics—especially those of continuing political importance—cannot be studied effectively on the basis of the sorts of material I’ve been talking about so far.  If you’re interested in some episode that has taken place in the very recent past, or in some story that is still unfolding, you’ll have to rely on open sources:  on newspaper and magazine accounts, on statements made by government officials, on testimony in Congressional hearings, and the like.   That material, of course, is sometimes also worth examining even if you are interested in subjects for which a large amount of previously classified material has been made available.  It is always interesting to know how a particular issue was treated in the public discussion at the time, and occasionally even important historical records are published under Congressional auspices.  So let me talk briefly about material of this sort.  I’ll begin by talking about newspapers and magazines, then I’ll discuss the Congressional sources, and finally I’ll talk about the material released by the executive branch, both in the United States and in other countries.

Newspapers and magazines, or at least those issues that came out from about 1980 on, are now searchable electronically through LexisNexis. (At UCLA, even if you’re working from a campus computer or using the proxy server, that link will work only about half the time.  If it doesn’t work, click into the UCLA Library Catalog, click “advanced search,” then at the top right, click the link for “Articles,” which will allow you to search article databases;  then click the link for “databases” on the left, then click “Find Database by Title.”  LexisNexis is listed under “L.”)  Once you get into the database, you’ll be able to do full-text searches for articles in major U.S. and non-U.S. newspapers and magazines—over 350 newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Die Zeit, Le Monde, Le Figaro and so on) and over 300 magazines (Newsweek, New Yorker, New Republic, National Review, L’Express, Der Spiegel, The Economist, etc.). 

Three important newspapers—the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal—can also be searched via ProQuest Newspapers.  Click into that link, and then, under “databases,” click “deselect all” and then select the particular newspapers you want to search in.  If you’re interested in something that’s not recent, be sure the “ProQuest Historical Newspapers” version of the paper is checked, and not just the regular version.  See also the ProQuest/Chadwyck Healey’s Historical Newspapers page (useful mainly for its index to the Times of London); to get the full text for that paper’s articles, you can use the Times Digital Archive (1785-2008).

The ProQuest and LexisNexis search engines allow you to do keyword searches, but this, as you know, has its problems.  It’s hard to know which keywords will give you everything you want, and will not generate a mass of irrelevant material at the same time, so when you do keyword searches you pretty much have to grope in the dark. That’s why it’s important to note that the old-fashioned hard-copy newspaper indexes continue to be published, and those indexes in my view are just terrific.  As I said in the text, you can learn a lot just by reading the listings in the New York Times Index (REF AI 21 L891), and indexes are available for a number of other major newspapers:  Washington Post (REF AI 21 W276 O332), Los Angeles Times (REF AI21 L891), Le Monde (REF AI21 M7), Times of London (REF AN L Index—this covers the whole period from 1790 to the present).  General interest magazines are also quite important, and played a major role in the political culture before television arrived on the scene.  The basic guide to that source used to be the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature (REF AI3 R22), but that guide is no longer published.  You can get access to an electronic search engine, the Readers' Guide Retrospective, covering 1890-1982, by looking up that title in the UCLA Library Catalog.

You may want to read certain newspapers and magazines on a regular basis, especially if you are working on some contemporary issue.  In that case, you should know about the many periodicals that are available through their own websites.  For the European press, there is a good list, with links, on the Council for European Studies website. Charles Lipson has many links to newspapers with online editions on his website:  see especially Middle East News and World News.  (The Lipson website is in fact loaded with all kinds of links of interest to people in our field.)  English translations of key articles in some important non-English language periodicals are available online, at least for a certain period of time following publication of the original; Der Spiegel, for example, has an English language edition available online.  The reports prepared by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, “created by the U.S. intelligence community to benefit policy makers and analysts,” and “prepared from thousands of monitored broadcasts and publications,” are another very useful source from the period from 1941 through 1996.  The reports themselves are available online through Readex.

Let me now talk a bit about published Congressional sources.  If you’re studying some contemporary issue, these might well be of fundamental importance.  How do you approach this material?  The ProQuest Congressional webpage is a good place to start.  You can use this search engine to search various Congressional sources (e.g., hearings, reports, documents, etc.), and particular searches can be fine-tuned in various ways.  You can, for example, limit your search to hearings and search for the testimony of a particular “witness.” The listings that turn up often have a pdf icon that allows you to download a particular item.  If you want a browsable index, at least as a supplement, you might want to take a look at the Federal Digital System website.  On the right-hand side of the homepage, you’ll see links for Congressional hearings, reports, and documents, from the mid-1980s on.  You can also browse by Congressional committee.  Those documents are all available online in pdf format.  If you want to see what State Department officials have had to say when they testify before Congress, you might want to check out the “Congressional Testimony” page on the State Department’s website; the material here goes back to 1993.  And if you’re interested in the military issues for the early Cold War period, there’s one guide you might find particularly useful:

Congressional Hearings on American Defense Policy 1947-1971:  An Annotated Bibliography, comp. Richard Burt (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1974).  SRLF


The important series Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Historical Series) (20 vols., covering 1947-68, and published years later) is now also available online. Vols. 1-18 are available through ProQuest Congressional Publications website noted above.  (If the link doesn’t take you to the list directly, copy and paste the title of the series into the search field, and click “search.”) There’s also a website that gives links to Congressional material (hearings, reports, etc.) related to intelligence, 1989-present.


If you’d like to use unpublished Congressional material, you should take a look at Andrew L. Johns, “Needles in the Haystacks: Using Congressional Collections in Foreign Relations Research,” SHAFR Newletter, 34:1 (March 2003), 1-7; that article lists a number of indexes, guides, and websites that you might want to consult.


Now, finally, let me outline some of the material that’s put out by the executive branch, beginning with the president.  The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States (MAPS GOVT J80 .A283) is a basic source.  You can access this series via HeinOnline:


Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin Delano Roosevelt


Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States (Hoover, and then Truman through Obama)


If you’re working on a recent topic, a vast wealth of material is available online:


            White House website (current administration). Hover over the tab for “Briefing Room” for links to speeches, press briefings, etc.

White House material for G.W. Bush period, 2001-2009


You can also use the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents to get access to White House materials, including a lot of older material. Just go into the GPO’s advanced search engine, enter your search dates, select “Compilation of Presidential Documents” as your collection, choose to do a full-text search, and then enter your search terms (e.g., Iran nuclear) and click “search.”  You’ll then get a list of documents linked to the documents themselves.


The State and Defense Departments have very good websites:


            State Department website (current administration):

                        Secretary of State’s remarks (current administration)

                        Other senior officials (with links to their remarks)

State Department material (earlier administrations):

State Department website (G.W. Bush period, 2001-2009)

State Department website (Clinton period):  for 1997-2000 mainly; for 1990-1997 mainly

                                    Briefings and Statements (1993-  )

For older material of this sort (foreign policy-related statements by State Department and other key executive branch officials), check out the Department of State Bulletin (JX232 .A31, for the period from 1939 through 1989) and its successor publication, the Department of State Dispatch  (for the 1990s).  These journals are available via Hein Online through subscribing libraries (including UCLA).



            Department of Defense main website.  For speeches, transcripts, and so on, hover over the tab for “news” and select the appropriate category.  For older material, going back to 1994, links (by month) to the archives for that category are given on the right.  The search engine here is not very good, but you can to a certain extent get around the problems with this site by going into the advanced Google search engine and then entering the following in the "site or domain" field:  Then put in your search terms.  For example, to generate lists of documents showing what then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had to say about the Iran nuclear question in 2005, enter the following terms in the "all these words" field: rumsfeld iran nuclear 2005.  Note that this source is not 100% reliable.  On April 21, 2004, the Washington Post revealed that the Pentagon had deleted certain passages from the transcripts it had just posted on this website of interviews Bob Woodward had conducted with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in October 2003 without noting that any deletions had been made.



Many other countries have websites of this sort, with texts often available in English.  The French Foreign Ministry website (go into the tab for “press room”) and the German Foreign Office website, for example, both have English-language versions. 



VI: Getting to See Classified Material


There are various things you can do if you’d like to see material that’s still classified.  You can, above all, try to get that material declassified.  And you can go about doing that in a number of ways.  You could file a request under the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA], for example, or you could file a Mandatory Declassification Review [MR] request for one or more specific documents.


The particular procedure you use depends on the sort of material you want.  If you’re interested in material produced by a regular agency of government (like the State Department or the CIA), you’re supposed to use the FOIA procedure. The MR procedure is supposed to be used when you’re trying to see specific documents produced by the President's office and its offshoots (and that includes the NSC). What this means in practice that you’ll normally file MRs for documents in the presidential libraries, although for the newer libraries (from Reagan on) you can now also use the FOIA.  (See Robert Holzweiss, “Accessing Records at Modern Presidential Libraries,” Passport, Sept. 2008.)  But if you want to see classified Congressional materials—the records, for example, of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy—you can’t use either the FOIA or Mandatory Review procedure.  You instead have to get in touch with the Center for Legislative Archives.  Incidentally, if you’re working with Congressional materials, there are also a number of published research guides you should know about:


Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989. Bicentennial ed. ed. U.S. Senate Bicentennial Publication. Washington: U.S. Senate, 1989.


Paul, Karen Dawley. Guide to Research Collections of Former United States Senators, 1789-1995 : A Listing of Archival Repositories Housing the Papers of Former Senators, Related Collections, and Oral History Interviews Senate Document. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1995.  CD3043 .G85 1995


Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989. Bicentennial ed. ed. Document. Washington, D.C.: U.S. House of Representatives, 1989.


A Guide to Research Collections of Former Members of the United States House of Representatives, 1789-1987. Bicentennial ed. ed. House Document / 100th Congress, Second Session. Washington DC: The Office, 1988. CD3043 .G84 1988


Research, Carl Albert Congressional and Studies Center Congressional Archives. A Guide to the Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives. [Norman, Okla.]: The Center, 1995. CD3042 .C37 1995



How does mandatory review work?  The process is quite simple.  When a collection is processed, documents that haven’t been declassified are withdrawn from the files, and a “withdrawal sheet” is placed at the top of each file folder. The withdrawal sheet lists and describes documents that have been taken out. You look at the withdrawal sheets in the files that are of interest to you, and on the basis of what you see there, you fill out the form the presidential libraries have devised for this purpose. I’m putting a couple of these withdrawal sheets online—one that’s "clean"  and another that's been through the mill—so you can see what they’re like.  I’m also putting a blank MR list form online for the same reason.  You can list a number of separate documents on a single form, provided they’re all from the same file folder. There are limits to the number of MRs you can file—that is, to the number of documents you can ask to have reviewed for declassification—within a particular period of time.  You’re also not allowed to file an MR request for a particular document if it’s already been reviewed fairly recently—information about prior reviews appears on the withdrawal sheet.  There are various other rules that might apply—the precise rules change from time to time.  The archivists will tell you everything you need to do when you’re at the library.


MR requests can take years to get processed, so this is one thing you should do early on in a multi-year project. Just file your forms (making a copy for yourself before you send it in), wait to make sure the library sends you your MR request number so you can keep track of your request (if it doesn’t, be sure to call and ask for it), and then forget about this whole business. When the documents come, you'll be pleasantly surprised by whatever they send you. The same point, of course, applies to FOIA requests.  (To see just how long it takes to process MR’s even at the National Archives, take a look at the logs posted online.  You’ll note that some requests for material in the McNamara Papers made in 2004 had not been closed as of 2010.  Other FOIA logs are posted on the same website where I found this one,

How do you use the FOIA? You (normally) write a letter, although a number of agencies now allow you to file a FOIA request electronically. The National Security Archive provides a lot of guidance on its FOIA webpage, and has a detailed pdf guide (with sample letters) for you to download.  You might also want to check with a particular agency's FOIA office to see whether requests should be sent to the agency of origin or to the National Archives;  requests for older material often have to be sent to the National Archives, which, incidentally also has its own FOIA Guide.)   The State Department has a FOIA website that you might want to check out;  detailed information about the State Department’s FOIA process is available on that site.  The DoS allows you to submit your request electronically.  The Defense Department FOIA office also allows you to submit FOIA requests electronically and a sample request letter can be found on its website.  For links to other U.S. government FOIA offices, click here.  For still-classified material at the National Archives, you don’t have to write a letter; you can instead fill out a form, available in the glass-enclosed cubicle in the main reading room.  I’m attaching a clean copy of that form as a link, plus a filled-out form I sent in some time ago.  (This FOIA request from 2005 had not be filled as of September 2015.)

As a general rule, you should try to be as specific as possible in a FOIA request. This may include giving specific archival references, including references to the retired files in the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Maryland, where materials which are no longer in agency offices but which have not been turned over to the National Archives are generally kept. (This is what the best FOIA-requesters often do:  they base their requests on the SF-135 forms submitted when a document is transferred from a creating agency to a storing agency.  If you’re doing this kind of work, you might want to take a look at James David, Conducting Post-World War II National Security Research in Executive Branch Records: A Comprehensive Guide (Westport: Greenwood, 2001);  note also William Burr’s review of this book in the Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 6, no. 3 (Summer 2004), pp. 128-30.

When you file a FOIA request, it doesn’t hurt to explain where you found out about the particular source you’d like released (if the lead came, for example, from the footnotes in a declassified historical study) and where that source is likely to be found. You can, of course, request a number of documents in a single letter, providing they're all from the same agency. After you send in your letter, you'll generally get a preliminary response. If that doesn't include the FOIA request number you've been assigned, be sure to get in touch with the office that sent you that letter and ask what it is. If you don't do that, you'll never be able to keep track of your request. And then be prepared to wait. It can, and often does, take years before you get anything in the mail—if ever. 

If your goal is just to see classified material—and not necessarily to get it released—you can sometimes proceed in a very different way.  For certain classes of documents, you can get a kind of security clearance that allows you to see material of historical interest. For example, the Air Force Historical Studies Office  has (or at least at one point had) a program, called “Limited Security Access,” which enables scholars to see historical materials under Air Force control classified up to the level of secret. If you’re interested in exploring this option, you can contact them for more information.  I used that clearance to see not just certain Air Force materials (especially classified histories), but also to help me get access to the Rand papers, an unusually rich source. (Rand, for the period I was interested in, worked under contract for the Air Force.) (For information on the Rand archives, click here.) You have to request declassification of either specific documents, parts of documents, or your notes on those documents, in order to cite these sources. That takes a little while, but it is a lot faster and more efficient than the FOIA process.


You come across other programs of this sort from time to time.  At one point, for example, you had to apply for a security clearance to see the wonderful collection of Dulles State Papers at the Mudd Library in Princeton.  I had been told at one point that this was no longer necessary, because that collection had been declassified in its entirety, but according to the access page for this collection, you still need to apply for a security clearance to use it the microfilm.  (On the other hand, parts of this collection are not only freely available at the Library, but have been digitized and made available online.  Click the link for “Series 2: Declassified Records,” and then the links for particular files.  Many of those files have a tab for “images”;  click that and you can see reproductions of the documents themselves.)  But the point is that programs of this sort exist, and you might want to find out if there is a program of this sort in the area you’re interested in which you might be able to take advantage of.   And of course you can always talk with the archivists about what is possible—about whether there is any way to apply for special permission to see still-classified material.  This applies not just to American sources, but to archival material in other countries as well.




VII. Some Practical Information

Advice about the mechanics of doing archival research:

Emily Van Buren, “6 Tools to Make Archival Research More Efficient” (2014)
Alex Galarza, “Zotero in the Archives” (2011)
Heather Furnas, “Cameras as Research Tools: A Guide to Tools & Techniques” (Cornell University Library)

Using Digital Tools for Archival Research (University of Illinois Library)

Stuart Schrader, “Advice for Graduate Students Embarking on Archival Research” (2013)

Shane Landrum, “Camera, laptop, and what else?: Hacking better tools for the short archival research trip” (2010) (and 2011 follow-up)

Using Digital Tools for Archival Research” (slideshow)

Using digital photography to capture archival material: some tips and tools” (Bodleian Library)

Copying documents:  In general, it is less pleasant to work in European than in American archives. The U.S. archives are generally much less crowded—in the Presidential libraries, you are often the only scholar in the room, and the archivists can give you a lot of individualized attention. It is also generally much easier to make copies in American than in European archives, although with the increasing use of digital photography for this purpose the difference is not nearly as great as it once was.  Be sure you learn the rules about copying before you arrive at an archive—about what sorts of systems are permitted, about what the exact procedure is for marking files, and so on.  At College Park, for example, you need to get a "declas slip" from the person at the desk in the Central Reading Room before you begin copying previously classified material. This, it seems to me, makes little sense, since you wouldn't even be able to see the document in the first place unless it had been declassified, but it is a very minor annoyance given how user-friendly the whole system there is.  Sometimes, if you don’t have natural lighting, it makes sense to use a camera stand when you do your photocopying;  as a general rule, you’re not allowed to use flash.  Sometimes, if an archive does not want people to use the photocopies in a publication, but thinks it’s okay to allow researchers to make photocopies for their personal use, they’ll simply make sure you don’t use a high-quality reproduction system;  one place I visited that had this concern was very happy when I made copies with the camera on my cell phone—and the photos came out surprisingly well.

Housing:  Many archives will help you find a place to stay while you’re doing work there.  Sometimes lists are placed on the archive’s website;  see, for example, the list provided by the British National Archives.  You can also get leads by doing an h-net search.  Just go into the h-net search window and search for something like “apartment rent london,” limiting the search to the past couple of months. H-German no longer provides a monthly “housing bulletin,” but it does have a page listing housing resources.  that comes out at the beginning of each month.  H-France, which is not in the h-net system, also has a housing digest.  See also “Renting an apartment in Paris”.  You can sometimes get good information about housing by calling or email the archive you’ll be visiting. If you haven’t be able to find a place to stay before you arrive at your destination, you might want to check the bulletin boards at the archive.  You’ll often be able to get some leads there.  Here are two other good websites for short- and medium-term housing:, and

Funding:  It's hard to do serious archival work without getting financial support of some sort or other. As it turns out, there are many sources of support available. Most of the presidential libraries have small research grant programs. If the information is not on their website, try giving them a call. There are a number of major programs--for example, programs run by the Social Science Research Council, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (at the Kennedy School at Harvard), CISAC at Stanford, the National Security Education Program (undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, institutional grants), etc. Yale also offers pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships to people in our field. Before applying to any of these programs, read their websites with some care and maybe ask them to send you copies of their annual reports. Many of these programs have a particular political "spin" that you need to be aware of before you apply, or before you even decide to apply, but you can see what it is easily enough by reading the annual report.  The Columbia-based Council for European Studies publishes a Guide to Grants and Fellowships for Europeanists (2012).

UCLA has a “Graduate and Postdoctoral Extramural Support” search engine (called “GRAPES”) that you might want to look at;  that link also has links to three other databases run by other institutions that can be used by UCLA students.  See also Indiana University’s Russian and East European Institute page on doctoral student funding.  The American Political Science Association has a webpage listing various grants and fellowships. The American Historical Association publishes a guide of this sort: Grants, Fellowships, and Prizes of Interest to Historians, revised periodically. The German Historical Institute in Washington has a webpage listing various fellowships and also puts out fellowship guides periodically.  The most recent guide is Antje Uhlig and Birgit Zischke, Research—Study—Funding: A German-American Guide for Historians and Social Scientists (Washington DC, 2005). SHAFR (the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations) also has a page on its website listing funding opportunities; see also the SHAFR webpage on fellowships and grants.  The MIT Center for International Studies has an online database you might want to look at if you're applying for fellowships;  click here for the link to their own and to seven other such databases.  The University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, based at UCSD, “maintains a searchable database of more than 400 fellowships, grants, internships, prizes, and other funding opportunities” for people in our field.  The IGCC generally offers fellowships providing dissertation-year funding to students from any of the campuses in the UC system.  The SSRC has a guide to writing grant proposals which you might find useful.

Note also the general guide put out by Women in International Security: Fellowships in International Affairs: A Guide to Opportunities in the United States and Abroad (1994). That guide has some advice about how to write a proposal, and gives references to other useful publications in this area.  It also pays to keep your eyes open for things that don’t always turn up in standard lists. Note, for example, the Mellon Pre-doctoral Fellowship in Cold War/Post-1945 International History at GWU.

Students interested in pursuing a career in international relations might want to check out the InternationalRelationsEDU website.  And if you’re interested in getting an internship in this area, you might want to check out one or more of the following:

International Relations Society, University of Toronto, Internship Guide (link)

Women in International Security,  Internships in Foreign and Defense Policy: A Complete Guide for Women (& Men) (Cabin John, MD: Seven Locks Press, 1990) (SRLF)

Bruce Seymore and Matthew Higham, eds., The ACCESS Guide to International Affairs Internships: Washington, DC (Washington: Access, 1996) (SRLF)

Stephen E. Frantzich, Studying in Washington: A Guide to Academic Internships in the Nation’s Capital (Washington, D.C.: American Political Science Association, c2002)

Jeff Parness, The Complete Guide to Washington Internships (Halbrook, MA: Bob Adams, Inc., c1990).

Directory of International Internships (East Lansing, Mich.: Office of Overseas Study, Office of International Students and Scholars and Placement Services at Michigan State University, 1987- )

James Muldoon, ed., Internships and Careers in International Affairs (New York, N.Y.: United Nations Association of the USA, c1994) (SRLF)

Maria Pinto Carland and Candace Faber, eds., Careers in International Affairs [electronic resource] (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, c2008) (revised periodically).

State Department internship program

CIA internships

Council on Foreign Relations internship program (unpaid)

Atlantic Council internships