Skip to main content

COVID-19 Update

Read the Library Reopening FAQ and other COVID-19 updates. Library staff are providing online services and support.

The Inquiry Papers

 Collection
Call Number: MS 8
Scope and Contents
As was noted by Stephen Helton in his introduction to the National Archives' Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace (Preliminary Inventories, No. 89; Washington: 1955), in the fall of 1917, following the declaration of war against Germany,

Col. E. M. House, at the request of President Wilson, began to assemble in New York a group of experts to collect and collate data on geographical, ethnological, historical, economic, and political problems of Europe and other areas of the world in preparation for the peace conference, which should follow World War I. This group of experts, called 'The Inquiry,' was under the direction first of Sidney E. Mezes and later of Isaiah Bowman. At the time of its greatest development it consisted of 18 divisions, 11 of which dealt with special problems of particular areas or regions. Its staff was made up largely of professors recruited from American universities and colleges. The Inquiry made a number of investigations; …and in 1918 it assembled a large quantity of material on national boundaries. In December 1918 The Inquiry ceased to be an independent body and was absorbed into the Division of Territorial, Economic, and Political Intelligence of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.*



The Yale Inquiry Papers are an amalgamation of two separate collections: (a) a relatively small amount of material, dealing directly with The Inquiry, which Charles Seymour (the first curator of the House Collection) assembled from amongst his own papers and those of Colonel House and Clive Day and rearranged under an artificial "Inquiry" subheading; and (b) the much larger set of bona fide Inquiry "office records," left originally under the care of the American Geographical Society (The Inquiry's first "home") which were given to the Yale Library in 1961 in honor of President Seymour's 75th birthday.

The bulk of The Inquiry's records are housed in the National Archives, where they form part of Record Group 256 ("Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace"), whose contents are described in the Preliminary Inventory list [No. 89] mentioned above. The Yale Inquiry Papers consist to a considerable extent of duplicate material (roughly 12 cubic feet of material compared to 85 cubic feet housed in the National Archives); and even the strongest categories (Special Reports and Studies and Maps) are far from complete.

The Yale Inquiry Papers are arranged in six major series, which are described in greater detail in the pages that follow:

Series I. General Correspondence. (2 boxes) Primarily 'inter-office' correspondence from (or to) Clive Day and Charles Seymour, (1918-1919).

Series II. Records Regarding Administrative Matters. (1 box) The most significant items are Douglas Johnson's letters describing his special mission to England and France in the spring of 1918; and various "progress reports" from Sidney Mezes, Isaiah Bowman, and David Hunter Miller to Colonel House.

Series III. Reports and Studies. (23 boxes) The bulk of these reports deal with specific problems (and sub-divisions) of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires; the Balkans; Alsace-Lorraine; the Adriatic question; Poland; India, and German colonies in Africa. (An "Index of Authors" is appended.)

Series IV. Abstracts, Precis, Notes. (5 boxes) Various notes and miscellaneous research materials used primarily by Charles Seymour and Clive Day in their studies on Austria-Hungary and the Balkans.

Series V. Printed Materials. (1 box) Ten miscellaneous items.

Series VI. Maps and Photographs (4 folios and 3 boxes) Maps: [Consult Reference Archivist. The reprocessing and rearrangement of this section of the Yale Inquiry Papers has not been completed.]; Photographs: See page 73

* See also Lawrence Gelfand, The Inquiry: American Preparations for Peace, 1917-1919 [New Haven: 1963]; and Harold B. Whitemen (ed.), Charles Seymour's Letters from the Paris Peace Conference [New Haven: 1965]. Much additional information will undoubtedly emerge from Arthur Walworth's forthcoming study on American diplomacy at the peace conference; volumes VI and VII of Arthur Link's biography of Woodrow Wilson; the pertinent volumes of The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, and Charles Neu's projected full scale biography of Colonel House.
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Part of the collection was transferred from House Papers MS 466, and the remainder was the gift of the American Geographic Society in 1961.
Arrangement
Arranged in six series and oversized: I. Correspondence, 1918-1919, II. Records Regarding Administrative Matters, 1917-1919, undated, III. Reports and Studies, 1917-1920, undated, IV. Abstracts, Precis, Notes, 1902-1918, undated, V. Printed Materials, 1913-1927, undated, VI. Photographs and Maps, 1915-1918, undated.
Dates
1915-1921
Extent
18 Linear Feet (35 boxes, 4 folios)
Language of Materials
English