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First Volume of Public Diplomacy History Released

Reading Room of the Allies.

Reading Room of the Allies. Interior. Partial View. Note the American flags and War poster. Serious looking gentleman in shirt sleeves is the Manager. (U.S. Department of State)

7 December 2014. The State Department’s Office of the Historian released this week the first volume in its series of public diplomacy history, dealing with U.S. information efforts in World War I. From the preface …

This compilation focuses on the creation and overseas work of the Committee on Public Information (CPI). While the U.S. Government had engaged in public diplomacy before (such as with the publication of diplomatic correspondence during the Civil War), the CPI’s overseas work constituted a sustained effort to educate a foreign public about the United States, and, in particular, its role in the war effort. Representatives of the CPI were sent around the globe to establish reading rooms, distribute translated copies of President Woodrow Wilson’s speeches, work with local journalists to publish news stories, and show films demonstrating the United States’ readiness to fight. This compilation documents all of these activities. While few planning documents from the time exist, this compilation includes numerous examples of how the CPI executed its work in the field, particularly in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The chapter also includes examples of the types of information distributed by the CPI. The inclusion of these multimedia items is a new milestone in the publication history of the Foreign Relations series. Despite the CPI’s extensive activity, the war’s conclusion led the U.S. Government to shut down the Committee. However, future U.S. public diplomacy efforts could call upon the CPI as an example, even though it left no sustained bureaucratic legacy.


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