Timeline: 1921-2021



Council on Foreign Relations is founded

John W. Davis

First President1921–33


Foreign Affairs publishes its first issue, edited by Archibald Cary Coolidge

Archibald Cary Coolidge

First Editor of Foreign Affairs1922–28

CFR hosts its first distinguished foreign speaker, French statesman Georges Clémenceau, at the Metropolitan Opera House


CFR gathers its first study groups on Postwar Financial and Economic Problems, and Dangerous Areas in Europe


Malcolm W. Davis is executive director from 1925 to 1927


Walter H. Mallory

Executive Director1927–59


CFR begins to publish the Political Handbook of the World. Edited by Executive Director Walter H. Mallory, the publication is released annually until 1987

Hamilton Fish Armstrong

Editor of Foreign Affairs1928–72



CFR moves into 45 East 65th Street building, its New York headquarters for the next fifteen years


CFR publishes United States in World Affairs and continues to do so on an annual basis for forty-six years. The publication is then succeeded by the Foreign Affairs annual year-end issue entitled America and the World (1978–93)


George W. Wickersham is president from 1933 to 1936


CFR begins outreach to the academic community as it organizes its first Conference for University Men, a two-day conference to bring together leaders of different generations to discuss international relations

Norman H. Davis



With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, CFR establishes the first two research fellowships to promote scholarly research in the economic and political areas of American foreign relations. One of the fellows, Percy W. Bidwell, is later appointed first CFR director of studies

Percy W. Bidwell is the first director of studies, from 1937 to 1953


CFR creates Committees on Foreign Relations in eight cities across the U.S.: Cleveland; Denver; Des Moines, Iowa; Detroit; Houston; Louisville, Kentucky; Portland, Oregon; and St. Louis. The Committees would eventually expand to thirty-seven cities across the country before spinning off from CFR in 1995


War and Peace Studies project to advise the U.S. government on wartime conduct and peace prospects begins. The final report is issued in 1946

CFR begins outreach to the business community by establishing the Seminar for Junior Executives to provide young executives with a background in U.S. foreign policy



CFR organizes two conferences between American and British economists to deal with questions and conflicts that might arise after World War II


Russell C. Leffingwell

President 1944–46Chairman 1946–53


Harold Pratt House opens as CFR headquarters on 68th Street and Park Avenue in New York, NY

CFR organizes study groups to discuss end-of-war subjects: National Power and Foreign Policy, American-Russian Relations, the Organization of Peace, the Formulation and Administration of American Foreign Policy, and Economic Aspects of American Foreign Policy

CFR organizes, at the request of the State Department, two Conferences on Training for the Foreign Service for educators to better equip U.S. Foreign Service officers with a background on international relations. The following year, the Council expands the training with a series of six regional Conferences on Teaching and Research in International Relations


Foreign Affairs anonymously publishes “Sources of Soviet Conduct,” or the “X Article”; the author is later identified as George F. Kennan

George F. Kennan

CFR members Dean Acheson, William L. Clayton, and George F. Kennan participate in a series of member meetings on aid for Europe through the Committee for the Marshall Plan


Postwar Study Group projects are established and include Aid to Europe, chaired by Dwight D. Eisenhower; Problem of Germany, chaired by Allen W. Dulles; and American Position in Japan, chaired by Arthur H. Dean

Fellowship for Foreign Correspondents is established, which in 1966 is renamed the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellowship

Ralph A. Bunche, UN negotiator for the Arab-Israeli conflict, becomes the first African American elected to CFR membership. Later that year, he would also become the first African American awarded a Nobel Peace Prize



Henry M. Wriston



Research Fellowships are introduced to CFR’s Study Program


The Corporation Service Program is inaugurated with Singer Manufacturing Company and Pan American World Airways as two of the first corporate members

John J. McCloy


George S. Franklin

Executive Director1953–71


Secretary of State John Foster Dulles delivers his famous “massive retaliation” speech, describing the U.S. response to Communist aggression, to a full-membership on-the-record dinner


Harvard Professor and CFR Research Fellow Henry A. Kissinger’s Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, growing out of the work of a CFR study group, is published in June

Henry Kissinger



The Ford Foundation issues a $900,000 grant for two new studies at CFR

U.S. Air Force Fellowship is established

Lt. Gen. George G. Loving, U.S. Air Force Fellow 1969–70


Grayson Kirk



U.S. Army Fellowship is established

Gen. Sam S. Walker, U.S. Army Fellow 1968–69


International Affairs Fellowship (IAF) program is launched

Graham Allison (far right), IAF 1968–69


U.S. Navy Fellowship is established

Capt. Charles P. Tesh, U.S. Navy Fellow 1969–70


Foreign Affairs publishes a controversial article by U.S. Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford urging early withdrawal from Vietnam



CFR membership opens to women. Among the nine women selected for the first class is Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post

Term Membership program launches to bring younger members into CFR. The first class of ten members includes Vivian Derryck, the first African American term member, who would later become the United States Agency for International Development’s assistant administrator for Africa. The program is renamed the Stephen M. Kellen Term Member Program in 2001

Group of Term Members, 1970

David Rockefeller


Bayless Manning

President1970–77 (CFR’s first full-time president)


Daughters and Sons event becomes a regular feature of member programming

Committee on Studies commissions a major project on lessons learned from the Vietnam War


The Washington, DC, office is opened, and Alton Frye heads the office

William P. Bundy

Editor of Foreign Affairs1972–84


Nationwide Committees on Foreign Relations become autonomous from CFR in governance, finances, and programming


Fellowship for senior U.S. Foreign Service officers is inaugurated

CFR launches the three-year 1980s Project to envision foreign relations of the upcoming decade


CFR begins holding regular member meetings in Washington, DC

Winston Lord




52 and 54 East 68th Street buildings are acquired as additions to the CFR New York headquarters


CFR airs its first television program, Focus: Prospects for Peace in the Middle East, on national public television with an episode featuring Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor, and Jean Francois-Poncet, former foreign minister of France. The program runs until 1984

CFR airs its first television program, Focus: Prospects for Peace in the Middle East

CFR enlarges membership across the United States and holds programs in California

Marine Corps Fellowship is established

Lt. Gen. Matthew P. Caulfield, U.S. Marine Corps Fellow 1982–83


Foreign Affairs wins the National Magazine Award for public service

CFR launches “Campaign for the Council” to raise $14.5 million to extend the Council’s reach around the country; add fully-funded Studies programs on Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Science and Technology; and expand the New York headquarters. By the end of the campaign, CFR raises $15.8 million


John Temple Swing

President (pro tempore)

William G. Hyland

Editor of Foreign Affairs1985–92


Peter Tarnoff



CFR coproduces Worldview series with CUNY Television, which runs until 1990


CFR coproduces America and the World with NPR, a monthly radio series hosted by former CBS News Correspondent Richard Hottelet, and later by journalist Kati Marton. The series runs until 1997



Science and Technology Fellowship is established

Franklin H. Williams Internship Fund is inaugurated to contribute to diversifying the pipeline of future foreign policy professionals

Ambassador Franklin H. Williams

Foreign Affairs begins its first international edition with the launch of the magazine in Japanese. The Spanish-language edition follows in 2000, Russian in 2002, and Greek in 2010, in partnership with international publishers and institutions. These editions reach a combined audience of eighteen thousand readers


CFR begins its monthly television program World in Focus, which runs until 1994


James F. Hoge Jr.

Editor of Foreign Affairs1992–2010

CFR announces a capital campaign for its seventy-fifth anniversary to raise $25 million for new endowed chairs and fellowships. The Council closes the campaign with $36 million


Alton Frye


A CFR Task Force on Foreign Members issues a report with a decision against expanding membership beyond U.S. citizens

Leslie H. Gelb


Foreign Affairs publishes Harvard University Professor Samuel P. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” article, which argues that cultural identity will define global politics


International Advisory Board (IAB) is established to provide international insights into U.S. foreign policy issues and foster collaboration between the Council and institutions abroad. The group is in existence until 2009

Members of the IAB

A CFR Task Force on Minorities expands to improve prospects for the nomination and election of candidates for membership, and play a major advisory role in the development and implementation of the Council's overall plans to enhance its diversity

The National Program partners with the Pacific Council on International Policy to engage decision-makers from public and private sectors in study groups, conferences, and general meetings exploring international trends and their implications for western states. The partnership is in place until 2005

Center for Preventive Diplomacy is established (renamed Center for Preventive Action in 1995) to help prevent, defuse, or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention


CFR launches its annual Term Member Conference in New York

CFR introduces Task Forces and Policy Impact Panels, televised on C-SPAN, to broaden the foreign policy conversation beyond CFR and educate the American public on critical issues and illuminate options. The first task force report was Nuclear Proliferation: Confronting the New Challenges on initiatives to strengthen efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons

CFR launches the Project for Diversity in International Affairs, which aims to increase minority involvement in the field of foreign policy

With the plurality of the membership residing outside New York and Washington, DC, areas, CFR launches the National Program offering member programming in select cities across the United States. Meanwhile, the longstanding collaboration with the Committees on Foreign Relations program with representation in thirty-six cities across the country comes to an end

CFR cosponsors the Middle East/North Africa Economic Summit in Casablanca, Morocco, at the request of Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin. The summit draws 1,500 participants from 60 countries and over 700 companies


The first National Conference is held for members living outside of New York and Washington, DC, areas


CFR launches its website, foreignrelations.org

Foreign Affairs launches its website, foreignaffairs.org

Congress and U.S. Foreign Policy project, led by Alton Frye, is launched and becomes an institutional priority

Encyclopedia of U.S. Foreign Relations is published under CFR auspices

IAF in Japan program is launched, sponsored by Hitachi


Peter G. Peterson Center for International Studies is inaugurated in New York headquarters. Peterson Hall ushers in an era of meetings enhanced by videoconferencing and other technology

Next Generation Fellows join CFR staff as promising young scholars dedicated to specific research projects



CFR launches its Campaign 2000 website and programming to highlight foreign policy issues in the U.S. presidential election. CFR creates websites to track these issues for each subsequent presidential election

Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies is created to promote a better understanding of how economic and geopolitical forces interact to shape the world


CFR launches “America’s Response to Terrorism” programming after the 9/11 attacks, and publishes the report of the Independent Task Force on Terrorism, Improving the U.S. Public Diplomacy Campaign in the War Against Terrorism

Foreign Affairs publishes “The Tiananmen Papers” in its January/February issue, a compilation of documents that illuminate China’s decision to suppress demonstrations in 1989


CFR launches the Arthur Ross Book Award to recognize books that make an outstanding contribution to the understanding of foreign policy or international relations. Robert Skidelsky wins first place for John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Freedom, 1937–1946

2019 award winner Jill Lapore with Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose

CFR publishes another task force report on terrorism, America—Still Unprepared, Still in Danger, chaired by former Senators Gary W. Hart (D-CO) and Warren B. Rudman (R-NH), and directed by CFR Senior Fellow for National Security Studies Stephen E. Flynn


Richard N. Haass


Council Special Reports publication series begins with the first published report, Stability, Security and Sovereignty in the Republic of Georgia


Term member mentor program is launched to pair term members with life member mentors

CFR publishes Iran: Time for a New Approach, a task force report chaired by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, and directed by Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Suzanne Maloney.


Academic Outreach program begins to extend CFR’s reach to non-members and provide a forum for educators and students to interact with CFR experts and join the debate on foreign policy

CFR begins its annual Corporate Conference to involve U.S. business leaders in foreign policy

The Washington program establishes the Expert Bank, through which CFR scholars are available to provide customized briefings for policymakers on foreign policy issues


CFR Studies program is renamed the David Rockefeller Studies Program

2006 CFR’s State and Local Officials initiative is created to connect governors, mayors, and their staffs with resources on pressing global issues that affect local agendas

2019 event in conjunction with the National Governors Association


Carla A. Hills and Robert E. Rubin are co-chairs from 2007 to 2017

Carla A. Hills

Robert E. Rubin

Outreach program expands offerings, holding first Higher Education Working Group for college and university presidents, first Religion and Foreign Policy Workshop, and welcomes student groups in Outreach briefings


Foreign Affairs circulation breaks 160,000

For its 85th anniversary, CFR launches “Campaign for the Council” to strengthen the Studies Program; expand the Washington program; and increase the Council’s reach to religious and congregational leaders, educators and students, and state and local officials. Funds raised top $123 million

CFR launches its first podcast, The World Next Week, with CFR’s Director of Studies James M. Lindsay and CFR.org Managing Editor Robert McMahon, who preview international developments in the week ahead


CFR building in Washington, DC, at 1777 F Street opens in January and wins Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification



Gideon Rose

Editor of Foreign Affairs2010–2021


Coast Guard Fellowship is established


CFR creates the Council of Councils to facilitate candid, not-for-attribution dialogue and consensus-building among influential opinion leaders from both established and emerging nations, with the ultimate purpose of injecting the conclusions of its deliberations into high-level foreign policy circles within members’ countries

CFR hosts inaugural meeting of the Global Board of Advisors, a select group of prominent business leaders, academics, and former government officials from around the world who strengthen our understanding of international perspectives while also enhancing the dialogue between U.S. leaders and their counterparts in other countries

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Chancellor for the New York City Department of Education Joel I. Klein chair the Task Force on Education Reform, directed by former Director of Communications for the New York City Department of Education Julia Levy, and publish U.S. Education Reform and National Security


CFR’s International Institutions and Global Governance Program (IIGG) wins three Silver Davey awards from the International Academy of the Visual Arts: two silver awards for the “Global Governance Report Card” and one silver award for the “Global Governance Monitor” website. The site also wins two silver and eight bronze Telly Awards


CFR launches the “Global Conflict Tracker,” an interactive web-based guide to ongoing conflicts around the world

CFR is named one of top fifty healthiest companies in the United States by Greatist.com, an online health and fitness resource

Young Professionals Briefing series is added to the Corporate Program as a professional development opportunity for early career employees of corporate member companies to participate in foreign policy discussions led by CFR fellows and experts

CFR embarks on the largest capital campaign in its history—the “Council at 100” Campaign to raise $150 million to substantially grow its endowment and generate the financial stability necessary to enter its second century on a firm footing. The campaign raises $193 million.


CFR holds the inaugural two-day National Symposium in Menlo Park, California, for West Coast-based members to network and participate in in-depth foreign policy discussions


The President’s Inbox podcast launches with CFR’s Director of Studies James M. Lindsay to explore foreign policy challenges facing the United States

CFR’s “Campaign 2016: The Candidates and the World” wins the Online News Association award

CFR launches the IAF in Canada, sponsored by Power Corporation of Canada

CFR launches its Model Diplomacy website with free National Security Council and UN Security Council simulations that present both historical and hypothetical scenarios to high school and college students based on real issues


David M. Rubenstein



CFR Senior Fellow Edward Alden and International Affairs Fellow Laura Taylor-Kale publish the task force report, The Work Ahead: Machines, Skills, and U.S. Leadership in the Twenty-First Century, alongside chairs former Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and John Engler, former governor of Michigan


Modern Slavery” InfoGuide wins Webby award in best individual editorial feature, beating out competitors such as National Geographic and Time magazine

CFR’s Local Journalists initiative launches and provides news media professionals with international context for the local issues they cover

Why It Matters is launched as CFR’s newest podcast. It tells the stories behind the most compelling and least understood questions shaping the world and explains how these issues relate to people’s daily lives

Why It Matters host Gabrielle Sierra with CFR Senior Fellow Elizabeth Economy

CFR launches World101, free online courses for high school, college, and lifelong learners that explain the forces shaping the world

CFR launches its Election 2020 website and programming to highlight foreign policy issues in the U.S. presidential election



CFR introduces Think Global Health, a multi-contributor website that examines how changes in health are reshaping economies, societies, and the everyday lives of people around the world

The Women and Foreign Policy program’s Women’s Power Index launches to rank countries on their progress toward gender parity in political participation

Responding to the disruption caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, CFR ends in-person programming for the first time, and transitions to providing members with virtual programming

Improving Pandemic Preparedness: Lessons From COVID-19 task force report is released. The task force is chaired by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, former secretary of Health and Human Services, and Francis Fragos Townsend, former White House homeland security advisor. Project directors are CFR Senior Fellows Thomas Bollyky and Stewart Patrick