Online Data Archive

The Council on Foreign Relations: A Case Study
of the Societal Bases of Foreign Policy Formation, 1922-1969

Appendix A: Data Collection


This study of the Council on Foreign Relations presented some very special problems of data collection, problems which might have led to the decision to choose another topic of study, less beset with difficulties. After some preliminary investigation and reflection, however, the decision was made that the importance of the subject warranted an attempt to do the best possible with an inevitably limited set of data. I expected that there would be enough available to make possible a useful study, in spite of the predictable gaps.

The difficulties stemmed from several sources. The Council's deliberations were off-the-record, and confidentiality a strictly observed rule. Moreover, even for periods as long ago as the founding of the Council in 1921, the Council's archives were open to scholars and still remain closed [sic]. Moreover, the possibility of extensive interviews with members and leaders of the Council would require expenditures of time and money (for travel) on a scale that was not available to me, and those interviews themselves were limited by a dilemma. That dilemma lay in the fact that the confidentiality necessary to get certain kinds of information would involve unacceptable restrictions on publication of the results of the research. Given these limitations, the following data sources had to be the basis of the study:

  1. The publications of the Council intended for public consumption, i.e., the magazine Foreign Affairs, and the books published under Council auspices.
  2. Council publications intended primarily for members, but available in some libraries. These include the annual reports of the Council, documents from the Har-Peace Studies, reports from the Council's Committees on Foreign Relations, and occasional other documents.
  3. A limited amount of Council material found in the papers of deceased Council leaders, including the minutes of a small number of Council study group meetings.
  4. Several minutes of Council study and discussion groups leaked in recent years, and published by the North American Congress on Latin America and the Africa Research Group.
  5. Scattered information on the Council in memoirs or biographies of Council leaders and members.
  6. Data on a sample of Council members, and the set of all Council directors, gathered from public data sources, such as Who's Who in America, other library references sources, newspaper indexes, and library card catalogues.
  7. Data on a sample of issues (case studies) gathered from primary sources and secondary studies, and on top policy makers gathered from the U.S. Government Organization Manual and from Who's Who in America.
  8. Data on corporations, foundations, and other organizations from standard reference sources.
  9. Supplementary interviews with a limited number of Council officials and members.

The data on the sample of members and the set of directors was coded and placed on punch cards, for ease of handling. The code book, together with the distribution of values of the variables, is available as a PDF document.