Treaty Research III: Finding Travaux Preparatoires

Signing of the Treaty of Versailles, 1919, Oil on canvas by John Christen Johansen
November 27, 2012

The Travaux Préparatoires are official documents recording the negotiations, drafting, and discussions during the process of creating a treaty.  These documents may be consulted and taken into consideration when interpreting treaties.  Travaux Préparatoires of a specific treaty are often unpublished or inaccessible, and difficult to locate even when these documents have been published in a collated volume.  So, to help you with your search, we have begun to collect the available Travaux Préparatoires for international treaties online and in our catalog, and created a resource under Foreign and International Law Resources titled “Travaux Préparatoires.”  If the item is physically located in the library, we scanned and attached the table of contents so you can easily tell if the item might help you with your research. This is an ongoing project that we would like to make accessible to anyone doing Travaux research, so please let us know if you come across a Travaux source that is not included here.

Many problems arise when hunting for the Travaux Préparatoires of a specific treaty, especially when the information is unpublished.  After determining the official name of the treaty, you should begin by searching the Travaux Préparatoires database we have compiled.  If your treaty is not included, then you need to search databases, such as Morris, EBSCO, and WorldCat, for the treaty name and the term “travaux” – the most efficient search method is to put the treaty name in one set of parentheses and term “travaux” in another.  If published Travaux Préparatoires are available for your treaty, either in book or article form, these searches should locate them. 

Should these searches not be fruitful, you may also search for resources and publications on your treaty without the term “travaux.”  Sometimes these resources include information and summaries on the drafting and negotiations that took place during the treaty-making process, which would include references to official Travaux Préparatoires documents that you can then look up.  Occasionally, information on a treaty may be online, with references listed, some of which may be or lead to Travaux documents.  Although all treaties have associated Travaux Préparatoires documents, these may be restricted information, or are oftentimes not collected and collated into a user-friendly format.  Locating Travaux Préparatoires, in this case, would involve combing through documents from the UN or other government resources, and it may be best to consult a reference librarian for assistance.

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