Students interested in the new diplomatic history have at their disposal a wide range of source materials. Of prime interest are primary sources such as memoirs, diaries, travel journals and private letters. However, the more ‘traditional’ sources of diplomatic history should not be dismissed altogether: of major importance are still the official documents of diplomacy: diplomatic dispatches, internal notes of Foreign Ministries, official reports or bilateral and multilateral treaties. Moreover, non-diplomatic source materials such as newspapers and magazines, or even pictorial sources such as cartoons can also provide the basis for a study of diplomacy from a socio-cultural perspective.

Below are some links to primary sources, sometimes fully accessible online. At the bottom a small bibliography can be found of some major series of diplomatic documents, published recently and attesting to the continuing interest for, and relevance of, ‘traditional’ diplomatic sources.


* Guide to “Diplomatic History: Official Sources”, by Carleton University

Under the heading ‘Government Information’ a thorough list can be found summing up the major publications of series of official diplomatic documents, sorted by state.

*Avalon Project, Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy

Gives full transcripts of major treaties and other diplomatic documents, with an emphasis on the United States.

* Office of the Historian

Indispensable website for anyone interested in US diplomatic history. Gives overall historical information on major events in the history of US international relations, provides biographies of secretaries of state, listings of chiefs of missions abroad, but most importantly provides the full text archive of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series.

* Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

A useful website with links to oral histories of American diplomats, training manuals and historical studies.

Online Newspaper Archives

An important source for studying diplomatic history, especially if one is interested in understanding contemporary perceptions of diplomacy and diplomats, is the press. Examples of major online databases, some of them which are freely accessible, are, for the Netherlands: ; for Great Britain: ; or for New Zealand: Many other states are preparing similar digitization projects for their own national newspapers.

Major databases of digitized source materials

If one has the references of memoirs or published diaries of diplomats or other actors of international relations, often a digital version can be found online. You could try to start with searching the following websites:

*Gallica Bibliothèque Numérique

Provides free access to many published sources stocked at the National Library of France (memoirs, newspapers, diaries etc.). Text-based search is not provided though.

*Internet Archive

Probably the most famous online databank, consisting of digitized books, atlases, memoirs, travel journals etc. Provides download links to PDFs that most often have text-based search options.

*Hathi Trust

Huge online database, that offers wide text-based search possibilities in millions of digitized books. However, not all content is available freely online if one is not registered at one of the participating institutions. A collection that could be of specific interest to some diplomatic historians is ‘British and Foreign State Papers’.

Examples of some major series of published and annotated diplomatic dispatches

  • Freitag, S., Manias, C., Mösslang, M., Riotte, T., Schulz, H. and Wende, P. (2000-2006) British Envoys to Germany, 1816-1866, 4 vols (Cambridge University Press).
  • Kuneralp, S. and Tokay, G. (2008-2012), Ottoman Diplomatic Documents on the Origins of World War One, 7 vols (The Isis Press).Kuneralp, S. (2009-2012), Ottoman Diplomatic Documents on the Eastern Question, 5 vols (The Isis Press).

* Another useful primer on the use of diplomatic documents with some additional sources may be found here:

*Austrian Newspapers Online (“ANNO”) is the digitalization project of the Austrian National Library. It’s free to use, it’s constantly getting expanded and it already covers a vast timeframe, from the earliest, unprinted Fugger “newspapers” of the 16th century all the way to 1941, and including many relevant to diplomatic history.