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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Government Information for History 498: State Department

This is a guide to introduce government publications and resources for HIS 498

Foreign Relations of the United States

Foreign Relations of the United States, commonly referred to as FRUS, prepared and issued by the Department of State since 1861, is a compilation of selected documents from the files of the Department of State, the White House, and other agencies. It presents a historical view of American foreign policy and now comprises more than 450 individual volumes. Besides providing the text of important foreign policy documents, FRUS also includes source citations (printed either with the document or as footnotes) that indicate the location of the original documents. In this way, FRUS serves as a guide to the location of additional documents on the same and related subjects not selected for publication.

FRUS begins with the administration of Abraham Lincoln in 1861. There are two cumulative indexes covering 1861-1899 and 1900-1918. The organization of FRUS is generally chronological, but the dates of the volumes do not necessarily reflect the dates of documentary history. For example, the volumes for 1900-1918 do not include the records dealing with World War I or the Russian Revolution. Each volume has a subject and author index. There is also typically a table of sources and abbreviations at the beginning of each volume.

Commercial Relations

Among the more comprehensive publications are those relating to commercial relations during the second half of the nineteenth century. The reports originated with a Congressional requirement for information. To prepare the report called for by a December 1853 resolution, the Department created a “Statistical Office” in 1854, which was given permanent status by an 1856 law. That law provided for the appointment of a “Superintendant of Statistics,” an office abolished by law in 1868. Despite the termination of the position, the work continued and in 1874, Congress authorized the establishment of the Bureau of Statistics. In 1897, the name was changed to the Bureau of Foreign Commerce. In 1903, that bureau and the Bureau of Statistics in the Department of the Treasury were consolidated and transferred to the Department of Commerce as the Bureau of Statistics. 

United States consular reports

Issued monthly (with some gaps) from October 1880 to June 1903 (numbered 1-275). There also are annual indexes for 1880-August 1900.

Special Consular Reports

State Department Central Files (1789-1979)

The central files are the most inclusive and authoritative repository of reporting by American diplomatic and consular posts overseas. In addition, the files include Department of State communications with foreign diplomatic and consular offices in the United States, correspondence with other U.S. Government agencies and the public, and internal memorandums and reports.

Some of these items might be available online while others aren't. You can put in a reproduction request with a fee to access those items that aren't readily available online.

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