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Researching the History of U.S. practice in international law and international relations

If you are interested in researching the history of U.S. practice in international law, or the history of U.S. diplomacy more generally, there are several resources in HeinOnline and in ProQuest Congressional that can help you.

U.S. practice in international law is summarized in three editions of the Digest of International Law of the United States, each known more familiarly by the name of its editor. The first edition, edited by Moore, covers the years 1776-1904. The second edition, edited by Hackworth, covers the years 1905-1940. The third edition, edited by Whiteman, covers the years 1941-1972. These three editions have been updated by Digest of United States Practice in International Law, 1973-1981, and 1989 to present, and by the Cumulative Digest of United States Practice in International Law, which covers the years 1981-1988.

All of these digests are available in HeinOnline’s Foreign & International Law Resources Library, and easy to search. Suppose you wanted to find a discussion of the Halibut Fisheries treaty of 1930. Using the Advanced Search interface, you would simply search for the phrase “halibut fishery” in Hackworth. This search would retrieve a discussion of the treaty, its predecessor and successor treaties, with links to the texts of the treaties themselves.

You can also search for diplomatic correspondence and other documents relating to U.S. international affairs in Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), which is also available in its own library in HeinOnline. Here you could find all diplomatic correspondence related to the 1930 treaty on the “preservation of the halibut fishery of the northern Pacific and Bering Sea.” The trick to using the FRUS database is to realize that dates of coverage are not the same as dates of publication. Thus, to search for documentation from 1930 you would actually date-restrict your search to 1945, the year in which volumes for the year 1930 were published.

FRUS covers the history of U.S. foreign policy from 1861 onward. From 1817-1861, diplomatic correspondence and other documents relating to foreign relations were published in the Serial Set, a massive series best known as the source of Senate and House reports. The Serial Set is fully digitized and readily available electronically through ProQuest Congressional. The Serial Set is not difficult to search in ProQuest Congressional, but there is also a three-volume Index to United States Documents Relating to Foreign Affairs, 1828-1861, which is available in HeinOnline, in Spinelli’s Law Library Reference Shelf. If you were interested in the history of U.S/French trade relations in the nineteenth century, you could search this source for “France trade”~25 (the term ‘France’ within 25 words of the term ‘trade’), which would retrieve 14 items, among them an 1860 message from the president transmitting to Congress a letter from the emperor of France on commerce and free trade. This entry is accompanied by a citation to the Serial Set, 36. 1. H. ex. doc. 30, which you could use to retrieve the full text of the document in ProQuest Congressional.

The digests of U.S. practice of International law, Foreign Relations of the United States, and the Serial Set are the most important sources of information relating to the historic practice of the United States in international law and foreign affairs generally. All three readily available to researchers in HeinOnline and ProQuest Congressional.

Foreign Relations Materials from the U.S. Department of State

Follow the U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian on Twitter for updates on researching foreign relations, foreign policy, and Department of State records.  For example, check out this informative tweet about their index to foreign relations documents published in the Serial Set:

  • In 1817, Congress began publishing foreign affairs documentation in the Serial Set. Check out our index here: #FRUS.

The Serial Set is digitized and fully available in ProQuest Congressional.

Also worth noting from their Twitter feed, 20 newly digitized Foreign Relations volumes have been released.  The Office of the Historian has partnered with the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center, to digitize the entire Foreign Relations series.

“The Foreign Relations of the United States series presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity. The series, which is produced by the State Department’s Office of the Historian, began in 1861 and now comprises more than 450 individual volumes. The volumes published over the last two decades increasingly contain declassified records from all the foreign affairs agencies.” (About the Foreign Relations of the United States Series)

Recent volumes of FRUS (from the Truman administration through the Carter administration) are available from the Office of the Historian’s Historical Documents web page.

The entire published Foreign Relations series (comprising more than 600 published books) is available in digitized format (PDF) from the Lincoln administration (1861) to the Carter administration (1980) in HeinOnline.

As an additional bonus to the researcher, the Office of the Historian also offers a guide to Citing the Foreign Relations Series.

Legal Research Tech Tool: Bestlaw

One of the toughest skills to master in legal research is cost-effective research techniques.  With your law school accounts, you have the luxury to play around and explore without any fiscal consequences, but when you or your employer are paying for your subscriptions to these platforms – and when your clients are being billed for your research time on these platforms – playtime is over.  There are many ways to gain cost-effective research skills: Vendor reps at your school likely offer cost-effective research training sessions in the Spring semester.  You might learn about free and low-cost alternatives for conducting legal research.  And once in a while, you come across new tools developed to help you stay cost-effective in these subscription platforms.  One such tool is Bestlaw.

Bestlaw is a browser add-on for Chrome (support for Firefox is coming soon too).  It is designed to help you research in WestlawNext more cost-effectively (support for Lexis Advance should also be coming soon).  Once you install Bestlaw on Chrome, you will see its tools appear whenever you run searches on WestlawNext.

First, when looking at your search results (not in Overview, but when you select a particular view of results, such as Cases), under each search result you’ll see a drop-down “Search…” menu.  This gives you the option to view this document in a free site, such as Casetext, Cornell LII, Court Listener, Findlaw, Google, Google Scholar, Ravel Law, or Wikipedia before viewing (and paying to view) it in WestlawNext.  So if you’re not sure whether this is a document that will be helpful for your research, viewing it in a free site first could save your firm a lot of money.


Next, once you decide to look at a document in WestlawNext, you’ll see a Bestlaw toolbar just below the document tabs at the top of the screen.


This toolbar gives you several options:

  • Display – Gives you the option for a readable view (clears away the extra content on the sides so that you have distraction-free reading for the document); the option to hide search term or page number highlighting; and gets you back to the top of the document with a click of the mouse
  • Tools – Gives you several ways to copy information from the document, including Bluebook citation,* title, or full text
  • Search – Will search for your document in Casetext, Cornell LII, Court Listener, Google, Google Scholar, Ravel Law, or Wikipedia (in a new tab)
  • Share – Allows you to share your document via email, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+
  • Help – Gives you quick access to the Bestlaw FAQs; allows you to report a bug, ask a question of the Bestlaw developers, or suggest a feature

If you find the Bestlaw toolbar distracting, you can hide it by clicking the up arrow next to the Help menu; this hides the toolbar behind an orange Bestlaw button, retrievable at any time by simply clicking the button.

Depending on the type of document you’re viewing, the Bestlaw features will differ slightly.  The features listed above are fairly standard and apply to cases.  Statutes have the added feature of collapsing all sections of the statute for easier browsing; under Display you have the option to expand all sections.


If you are in a secondary source, such as a law review article, you have the option under Display of showing an automatically-generated Table of Contents for the document.  While many law review articles come with these already, some do not, and many other secondary sources do not either, so this can be a handy tool for quick skimming to find the parts of the document that are most germane to your research.

Will Bestlaw absolve you of the need to learn cost-effective research strategies?  Certainly not.  You should still attend the platform-specific trainings offered by the vendors; you should still have a research plan before you dive in; and you should still consult a reference librarian if you’d like further tips.  But as an easy-to-use tool offering many powerful features and a design that allows you to use it alongside WestlawNext, a traditional legal research platform, Bestlaw is a great tool to have in your legal research arsenal.  (Did I mention it’s free?!?)


* Bestlaw claims it will give you perfect Bluebook citations; but it is always advisable to double-check the work yourself.

Opportunity for Students—32nd Annual Smith-Babcock-Williams Student Writing Competition

Attention students! The Planning and Law Division of the American Planning Association has announced the 32nd Annual Smith-Babcock-Williams Student Writing Competition. The Division will be accepting papers that are on the topics of planning, planning law, land use law, local government law, or environmental law. Submissions are due by June 5, 2015, and winners will be announced by August 28, 2015.

The winning paper will be submitted for publication in The Urban Lawyer, and the author will be awarded $2,000. The student who comes in second place will receive $400, and there will be an Honorable Mention prize of $100.

This is a great opportunity to gain some recognition for a seminar paper. Further information is available in the attachment. Good luck and happy writing!


Rules for the APA-PLD Student Writing Competition


Hello from your new Student Services Librarian!

My name is Kim Mattioli, and I just started the New Year off with a new position as the Student Services Librarian here in the law library. I’m likely familiar to many of you since I’ve been working part-time in the library for the past two and a half years in interlibrary loan and at both the circulation and reference desks. I’m thrilled to now be here on a full-time basis! You can find me in Room 105E in the Reference Office.

As you all know, every reference librarian is available to help students in any way possible, so I would like to tell you a little bit about what it means for me to be a librarian dedicated specifically to Student Services. As a starting point, I will be providing support to students who serve on the Indiana Law Journal, the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, IP Theory, and the Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality. Any student working on journal assignments is encouraged to come to my office with any questions, general or specific. In addition, I will be providing support to students who serve as faculty research assistants. This will include coordinating a training session for new or experienced research assistants, as well as helping with specific assignments.

While these are some of my preliminary responsibilities, I sincerely hope that this will only be a starting point. It is my goal to make all of you familiar and comfortable with the library. I hope to develop programming that will make all of you effective researchers, but in addition to that I want to serve as your liaison in the library. I want to know what programs and services you think would be helpful or fun, and to that end I invite anyone to stop by my office or email me with suggestions or requests. Let us know what you like about the library and what could be done differently.

I will be working hard to make sure that you are all getting the most out of our library. In the meantime, you will see me at the reference desk, on our new chat reference service, and on this blog from time to time. I’m looking forward to working with you!

What’s Your Research Resolution?

fireworks-borderWith the New Year speeding towards us, many of us will start out the year with a New Year’s Resolution.  Often these resolutions revolve around one’s health or one’s career, the purpose being to purge oneself of bad habits and poor choices.  Along those lines, I’d like to propose some research resolutions:

In this new year of legal research and scholarly pursuit, resolve:

  1. To conduct your research cost-effectively, through strategy and planning.
  2. To try out terms and connectors searching to refine your search results.
  3. To always run cases through a citator to make sure they’re still good law.
  4. To verify the authenticity of information you find online before relying on it in your research.
  5. To use secondary sources to begin and expand your research.
  6. To learn how to update statutes in print.  Because when the Internet goes down this summer, you’re the only clerk who knows how to use the print, and you’re firm’s up against a deadline, you’ll be the hero of the hour!  (Yes, this does happen!)
  7. To consider whether administrative law might govern your legal topic, in addition to statutory authority and case law.
  8. To interpret the meaning of a statute by compiling a legislative history to discern legislative intent.
  9. To explore legal resources outside of Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law that might benefit your research.
  10. To always come ask a reference librarian for help when you get stuck!

Happy holidays!  Have a great break!


Roving the Repository: Alumni News

i-witnessWhile roving the Law Library’s digital repository this month, I came across several law school publications for alumni.  In addition to current scholarship, the repository is growing its retrospective collection, and throughout our history, we have had several publications for alumni.  These can be an excellent resource for learning about the history of the school and how our student body has changed throughout our history.

First up, I-Witness, an alumni publication that ran from 1959-1968.  This 6- to 8-page newsletter primarily highlighted the goings-on at the law school, upcoming class reunions, and promoted membership in the law alumni association.  A couple of gems from this publication really help to put it in the context of American history and culture of the period, such as the article promoting the “Law Wives Club,” a social group formed for the wives of the primarily male student population, or the article discussing how the law school’s enrollment would be affected by the draft.


Next up, Bill of Particulars, an alumni publication that ran from 1968-2006.  With its long run, this publication saw us through more admissions issues with the draft, the expansion of services for veterans, changes in legal education, such as the rise of clinics and overhauls of the first year curriculum, and changes in the legal profession, such as the growing number of women in the field, the emergence of environmental law as a hot area of practice, and the rise of specialty courts, such as juvenile and family law courts.

Others include:

  • IU Law Update, an alumni publication produced in newspaper format that ran from 1991-1997.
  • Alumni Update, an alumni publication that ran from 1998-2001.
  • Indiana Law Update, an alumni publication in electronic format that ran from 2002-2009.
  • Indiana Law, a print alumni publication with a short run, 2007-2008.
  • Alumni News, a print publication that ran from 2007-2009.
  • Ergo, the publication we’re used to today, which has run 2010-present.

If you have a chance, check them out.  You never know what you might find!


In Thanks for Your Service – Resources and Benefits for Indiana Veterans

Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs LogoOn Veterans Day, as every day, we thank those who serve and who have served for your steadfast devotion to the fight for freedom and security, domestically and abroad. There are a wealth of resources available to returning service members, from education to healthcare, but finding these services and navigating the application and appeals process can be a challenge.  And while federal veterans benefits are most commonly known, states offer their own host of benefits and services to veterans.

The following is just a sampling of resources and services dedicated to Hoosier Vets:

  • Indiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs – This site provides a wealth of resources on benefits and services available to veterans and their family members.  You can find information here on both federal benefits and state benefits for Hoosier vets.
  • Veterans Home – An Indiana institution since 1896, Veterans’ Home offers a full range of housing services for veterans, from independent living to short-term rehabilitative care. They even offer a memory care unit for vets or their spouse living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia illnesses.
  • Veteran’s Business Enterprise Program
    • This program works to encourage the state of Indiana’s competitive contracts for the purchase of goods and services favor veteran-owned businesses.
  • Veteran Opportunity Partner
    • Perhaps you’re not a veteran, but you’d like to give back to those who’ve served. You may want to read up on becoming a Veteran Opportunity Partner, to provide services or discounts to vets throughout Indiana.
  • Finally, if you are interested legal assistance with your veterans’ benefits claim, here are some resources:

Found in the Stacks: Icons and Aliens

Icons and Aliens: Law, Aesthetics, and Environmental Change by John J. Costonis, University of Illinois, 1989. KF 5692 .C67 1989

Icons and Aliens explores the law of aesthetics. We might not normally think of aesthetics as having its own law, but this book is a reminder that we find legal questions in many places, some of them unexpected. The unusual title refers to the different ways that people can think of landmarks. The Golden Gate Bridge was initially much reviled for being an alien presence in the harbor. Now many years later it has become a celebrated icon of the city.   Costonis examines the legal implications of landmarks, how people react when they are built and when they are torn down.  As aesthetics change, so do our landscapes, and the legal system must respond when these changes cause conflict.  For a look at an unusual way law touches us, check this book out!

Have you found any particularly interesting books lately?  If so, let us know!

Happy Election Day!

Today is Election Day, so get out there and vote! If you are registered to vote in Indiana and would like more information, check out, which will let you look at your ballot, check out the candidates, and find your polling place. For even more information, the local Bloomington Herald-Times offers a page devoted to elections, on which you can find details on your specific district, read about individual races, get photos and bios of all the candidates, and watch videos of many of them.