U.S. Digests go Digital

by Duncan Hollis

I was introduced to the U.S. Digests on International Law as a graduate student working on my first international law research paper (an exposition of nineteenth century international law arguments over the British Guiana/Venezuela boundary dispute, which, I might add, is still around).  I found John Bassett Moore’s 8-volume digest from 1906 magisterial in its compilation of key primary resources such as diplomatic notes, letters, and internal memoranda.  I ended up buying my own set, which still sits on my shelf today. Since then, I’ve culled together the complete series of these digests, including (a) Francis Wharton’s early 3-volume work in 1886, (b) Green Hackworth’s set that follows Moore’s and runs through WWII, (c) Marjorie Whiteman’s 15-volume set that succeeded Hackwork’s, and (d) the annual (or semi-annual editions) covering 1974 to the present day.  For some years, publication of these volumes lagged, but through the hard editorial work of the likes of Sally Cummings, David Stewart and now Elizabeth Wilcox, the century-long tradition continues.

And, I’m happy to add that tradition is now a digital one.  You can already see .pdfs of Moore and Wharton’s work on-line (see, e.g., here).  Recently, however, the Office of the Legal Adviser has posted the latest digest editions to its website.  The volumes covering 1989-90, 1991-1999, and each year from 2000 to 2008 are now all online (I understand that 2009 is coming soon).  So, for those of you looking to work with primary materials–particularly those involving U.S. views on international and foreign affairs law–this is a welcome addition to the basic set of international law research tools.  I’ll always keep (and love) my hard copies of the digests, but I suspect that my own digest research is going to start creeping online.  And, I suspect, I won’t be alone.


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