McPherson Preface to the 2017 SHAFR Guide

15 March 2019

Standing proudly on the shoulders of giants of U.S. foreign relations history and past General Editors Richard Dean Burns, Bob Beisner, and Tom Zeiler, the third edition of The SHAFR Guide was first published online in October 2017. In June 2014, the SHAFR Council elected me to take the helm of this illustrious publication. The burden has been heavy but also awe inducing. While working on The SHAFR Guide, the most common thought was the simplest: a lot of people have written a lot of fine work on U.S. foreign relations history. To annotate as much of it as feasible into one publication was an honor.

Zeiler, the 2007 General Editor and past president of SHAFR, reminds us that this publication was long known informally as the “SHAFR Guide.” One my first suggestions upon taking it under my wing was to make the informal formal. The Council agreed, reflecting the confidence it felt that the very name of the organization, after 40 years, communicated the high quality of its publications. The 2017 edition was thus called The SHAFR Guide Online: An Annotated Bibliography of U.S. Foreign Relations since 1600. Brill published it online and is marketing the 2.1-million-plus-word Guide to university libraries and scholars. I am delighted to know that it will now be offered as a free benefit to all SHAFR members.

The SHAFR Guide Online maintains its essence as a near-comprehensive annotated bibliography of U.S. foreign relations history, but the third edition features some changes. Thirty-one contributing editors have produced thirty chapters, and the first twenty-six reproduce the chronological and geographical themes of the previous editions’ chapters, often by fusing two or more chapters into one. Most novel is the addition of four topical chapters—on economic issues; non-governmental actors; domestic issues, the Congress, and public opinion; and race, gender, and culture. These themes have gone well beyond being considered “non-traditional,” now reaching the status of essential topics of U.S. foreign relations history. All chapters of past editions already included significant publications on these four topics, but it made sense to grant each its own chapter for readers looking for an exclusive treatment. I instructed all chapter editors to be as comprehensive as possible without being completely exhaustive, jettisoning aging work only if it was completely superseded by newer research.

There are plans for an updated edition, in the early 2020s, which will add around 20 percent to the content of The SHAFR Guide Online by including materials published since 2016.

Many are to thank for making The SHAFR Guide Online possible. Most important, to be sure, are the contributing editors, who range from seasoned scholars to the most promising PhD students. Together, they have done the bulk of the work: reorganizing former editions of the Guide, updating its content up to scholarship published in 2016, adding keywords to entries new and old alike, and transforming all the entries into the style necessary for Brill to upload it into an online database. SHAFR believes that foreign relations researchers increasingly look first to online databases for bibliographies, and the addition of keywords are meant to make online searches faster, more accurate, and more comprehensive.

Chapter editors of previous editions first entered most of the entries in the 2017 edition, and we have done our best to list them as “past contributing editors” at the outset of each chapter. All chapters have been expanded, and it is nearly impossible to disentangle the ownership of entries, so I hope readers join me in thanking past contributing editors as a group for Herculean labor they put in years ago that will now find a new generation of readers.

The SHAFR Council has been unflagging in its support, which has included significant funding. Thanks especially to presidents Fredrik Logevall, Tim Borstelman, and David Engerman, who encouraged the project and oversaw my election and my negotiations with Brill. Thanks also to Amy Sayward for facilitating the logistics and finances. At Brill, Nozomi Goto, Jason Prevost, Diana Steele, Kayli Brownstein, and Franco Alvarado helped me through a complicated production process