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WWI State Department Records
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The National Archives has produced a descriptive pamphlet (DP) for this publication. It is available to view or download here. Much of the description on this page is taken directly from the DP.
The records are mostly instructions to and dispatches from diplomatic and consular officials; the dispatches are often accompanied by enclosures such as diplomatic notes exchanged, pamphlets, and newspapers. Also included in the records are notes between the Department of State and foreign diplomatic representatives in the United States, memoranda prepared by officials of the Department, and correspondence with officials of other Government departments and with private firms and individuals. The Lists of Documents or "purport sheets" give brief abstracts of the documents presented here and serve as a finding aid to the documents themselves. The arrangement of the entries on the lists corresponds to the arrangement of the documents in the file.
The file also contains communications received from foreign governments and Federal agencies other than the Department of State that had been classified for security or other purposes by their originators. The documents that have not been declassified are not part of this title. NARA does not have authority to make reproductions of such documents available to researchers.
Most of these records relate to problems arising from the wartime conditions existing during 1914-18 and to the peace negotiations. The subjects specifically covered include neutrality, neutral commerce, enemy property, prisoners of war, civil prisoners and enemy noncombatants, illegal and inhumane warfare, hospital ships, military and civilian observers, negotiations for peace, and the armistice.
Background - subject classification
Since 1910 the central files of the Department of State have been grouped and arranged by a decimal system of subject classification. The decimal file initially consisted of nine primary classes numbered 0 through 8, each covering a broad subject area. Under Class 7, Political Relations of States, the documents are arranged according to the countries concerned. Each country has been assigned a 2-digit number and the numbers for Austria and for Serbia (Servia) are 63 and 72, respectively. The Department of State has grouped the records relating to World War I and its termination in the file classification for political relations between Austria and Servia, the initial belligerents in that war. Thus, the documents reproduced in this microcopy bear the file number 763.72. The digits that follow the second country number represent a specific subject. The number, in turn, may be followed by a slant mark (/). The numbers following the slant mark are assigned to individual documents as they are accumulated on a specific subject. For example, a decimal file number taken from a document reproduced in the microcopy is 763.72111/20. The digits 111 following the country number for Serbia (72) signify that the subject is neutrality and the number following the slant mark indicates that this is the 20th paper received on that subtopic.
Using the records
The following chronological order is not how the records are arranged on Fold3, but the explanation of the hierarchy is here for historical information.
The documents under one subject classification are generally in chronological order, coinciding with the document number assigned (which follows the slant mark). There are instances, however, when a document file number was not assigned until a date considerably later than the one on which the document was received.
Cross-reference sheets that refer to related records under other subject classifications in the decimal file have been reproduced as they occur, and appropriate cross-reference notations appear in the Lists of Documents. Other cross-reference notations are to documents in the "numerical file," a system used for the central files of the Department of State for the period 1906-10. The numerical system of assigning consecutive numbers to subject case files was replaced by the decimal system of subject classification in 1910.
Before the records were filmed a search was made by the National Archives and the Department of State for missing documents. The checkmarks that appear by most entries in the left-hand column of the Lists of Documents indicate that the papers are in the file. The absence of checkmarks denotes that the documents were not found; it is believed that they were not among the records when they were received from the Department.