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Collection Overview

Council on foreign relations
Council on Foreign Relations Digital Sound Recordings
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
24 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 728-751


The Council on Foreign Relations is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and national membership organization dedicated to promoting improved understanding of international affairs and to contributing ideas to United States foreign policy. These digital sound recordings have been transfered from original reel to reel tapes of Council meetings as part of an ongoing project. The meetings feature a range of speakers on topics relating to foreign policy, including mainly government officials and businessmen from the United States and abroad.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The digital sound recordings of the Council on Foreign Relations were transfered from original reel to reel tapes of Council meetings. Transcripts of meetings were created until 1963; from 1964 through 1970, there is no record of what was said at any events mounted by the Meetings Department at the Council unless the event was "on the record" and the speaker issued written text. The Council's records contain a small number of tapes from the early 1970s. The only record of the intellectual content of the Meetings Program after 1964 is these surviving tape recordings of the opening presentations of speakers, and occassionally a question and answer section. In 1978, the Council began to tape selected meetings for use by members who were unable to attend important meetings. At the end of each fiscal year, the Council president, Director of Meetings, and Director of Programs would assist the Director of Special Programs is selecting a portion of the year's taped meetings to be sent to the archives. Usually those selected were heads of state, foreign ministers, United States Cabinet members and other distinguished visitors. No programs held at the Washington, D.C. office of the Council were ever recorded.

Until the transfer was completed in April 2006, the meeting audio was inaccessible to researchers due to preservation concerns about tape handling and playing.

Portions of the recordings may have poor audio quality; the recordings often begin and end abruptly, and rarely feature the question and answer section of the meeting.

Collection Creator Biography:

Council on foreign relations

The Council on Foreign Relations (the Council) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and national membership organization dedicated to promoting improved understanding of international affairs and to contributing ideas to United States foreign policy. The Council has had a large impact in the development of twentieth century United States foreign policy. Its membership has historically been drawn from those in business, government and academia recognized as the nation's opinion leaders in international relations; membership is by invitation only. The Council's basic constituency is its members, but it also reaches out to a wider audience through its publications, Committees on Foreign Relations, Corporate Program, and media efforts, so as to contribute to the national dialogue on foreign policy.

The Studies Department spearheads the Council on Foreign Relation's efforts to promote informed discussion on issues shaping the international agenda and defines the Council's function as a foreign policy research organization. This "think tank" has played a vital role in the Council since its incorporation in the 1920s. The department includes a large number of scholars and research associates who engage each other, Council members, and non-affiliated individuals in research on topics and regions related to United States foreign policy, which historically have included topics such as international trade, arms control, and economic development, and regions such as the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, and Latin America, to name a few. The Studies program produces articles, books, policy reports and papers to disseminate the research undertaken by staff and members.

For a fuller history on the Council on Foreign Relations, see the finding aid for the Council on Foreign Relations Records located at , Peter Grose's Continuing the Inquiry: The Council on Foreign Relations from 1921-1996 , located at and Michael Wala's The Council on Foreign Relations and American Foreign Policy in the Early Cold War (Providence: Berghahn Books, 1994).


This material forms part of the Council on Foreign Relations Records, call number MC104, held at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. See other "Other Finding Aid Section for more information.

Collection History


The collection was deposited at the Library in 1998 . Title and custody of the collection were formally transferred to Princeton in 2002. Small transfers of more recent records occur annually.


The Mudd Manuscript Library does not anticipate receiving any further sound recordings from the Council on Foreign Relations, but will continue to digitize and make available its holdings of Council audio recordings as resources permit.


Since 1921, the Council has archived materials relating to its organization, study groups, meetings, and special events. The Council Library and Archives staff reviews records to discard administrative material not conforming to its general retention policy. Items deemed private or inappropriate for transfer are retained by the Council. Based on a memos dated 10 September 1984, 15 October 1984, and 19 December 1986 from Council records, Council administration routinely "purged" their collection of general meeting tapes, selecting only a few to go to the Council library and archives department.


This project was undertaken with the generous support of Ron Brown '72, Margaret Cannella '73, Francis J. Carey, Frank Carlucci, C.W. Carson, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cox, William J. Crowe, Russell DaSilva, Charles Ganoe, R. Scott Greathead, Dr. Roger Kanet, Melanie Kirkpatrick, Linda and Morton Janklow, Michael S. Mathews, Bradford Mills, Edward Morse, Joseph Nye, Dr. Gerald Pollack, Harold Saunders, Anne-Marie Slaughter, John Treat, and Ezra Zilkha, as well as the John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Fund.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jennifer Cole in June 2006. Finding aid written by Jennifer Cole in September 2006.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

All Council on Foreign Relations records are closed for 25 years after the date of their creation.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

The Council on Foreign Relations Sound Recordings are available to researchers in mp3 format. Users must have access to some form of mp3 player, such as Quicktime, Windows Media Player, or Winamp. Preservation master copies were made in WAV format, but are not available online.

Credit this material:

Council on Foreign Relations Digital Sound Recordings; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 728-751

Find More

Existence and Location of Copies

The Mudd Manuscript Library also maintains WAV format preservation master copies of each file.

Related Materials

The Council on Foreign Relations Records Series 4: Meetings, may hold paper records relating to these recordings. In addition, please see the Council on Foreign Relations's website located at for online audio recordings of more recent on-the-record meetings.

Researchers interested in the Council on Foreign Relations may also wish to consult the interview transcripts from Columbia University's Council on Foreign Relations Visual Oral History Project.

Other Finding Aids

The Council on Foreign Relations Digital Sound Recordings form part of the The Council on Foreign Relations Records (collection MC104). A Finding Aid for the entire collection is available online: Council on Foreign Relations Records Finding Aid.

The records of the Council on Foreign Relations Meetings Department are described in a finding aid, which includes a list of speakers at meetings held from 1924-1992: Council on Foreign Relations Meetings Records Finding Aid.

The Studies Department Records of the Council on Foreign Relations are described in a separate finding aid: Council on Foreign Relations Studies Department Finding Aid.

Existence and Location of Originals

The original reel-to-reel tapes containing the Council's programs are held at the Mudd Manuscript Library as part of the Council on Foreign Relations Records, Series 13: Sound Recordings, 1953-1989.


Information in the Organizational History section was gathered from material within the Council's records (notably historical information from the Administration Series and Annual Reports from the Publications Series), as well as the Council on Foreign Relations' website, Of special interest are the annual reports, located at and Peter Grouse's Continuing the Inquiry: The Council on Foreign Relations from 1921-1996, located at

Subject Terms:
International relations--20th century.
World politics--20th century.
Genre Terms:
Born digital.
Sound recordings.
Council on foreign relations
United States--Foreign Relations--20th century.