This weekend marks the sesquicentennial of the U.S. State Department publication Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS). The “thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity” (22 U.S.C. 4351) has undergone many changes since its debut on December 3, 1861, when it mostly reprinted correspondence between State Department officials on then-current matters of foreign policy. Beginning in 1925, FRUS took on more of a historical perspective, covering events which occurred decades prior, and scholarly analysis began to appear alongside the correspondence.
The publication of FRUS is now mandated by the United States Code, although the State Department has a little trouble meeting the 1991 requirement that a FRUS volume should appear “not more than 30 years after the events recorded” (the latest volume, published in 2011, concerns 1973’s Arab-Israeli conflict).
FRUS is available in the Goodson Law Library at the call number Documents S 1.1 (Level 1), and volumes spanning events from 1945-1976 are available free online via the State Department website or from 1861-1960 via the University of Wisconsin. Members of the Duke University community can also access the complete set in PDF via HeinOnline’s Foreign Relations of the United States library, which also includes a number of historical e-books about foreign policy and diplomacy.
Learn more about the last 150 years of Foreign Relations of the United States at the State Department’s website, or Ask a Librarian for help locating the volumes in the library.