Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Background Notes (State Department)

Background Notes (State Department) –http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What does the flag of Andorra look like?
  • When did Hungary join NATO?
  • What ethnic groups exist in Pakistan?
  • What are some events in the effort to reunify North and South Korea?



Background Notes are the Cliff notes version of a country. The advantages to Background Notes are that they are up to date and available not only for every recognized sovereign country, but also for some dependencies and areas of special sovereignty.

Each Background note contains the following:

  • National Flag
  • Official Name
  • Map
  • Statistical Profile (including life expectancy and ethnic groups)
  • Geography
  • People
  • History
  • Government
  • Political Conditions
  • Economy
  • Defense
  • Foreign Relations
  • U.S. Relations
  • Travel/Business

The government section lists the current top officials in a given country and the US Relations section lists the current US Ambassador and key embassy staff.

Search Tips:

The use of the “inurl” with Google and other search engines can help you locate real-world countries that fit desired conditions. A few examples:

  • Need a country with a monarch as head of state? Use “Executive–monarch” inurl::/r/pa/ei/bgn/
  • A country with an authoritarian past or present? Use authoritarian inurl::/r/pa/ei/bgn/
  • Need to know what countries have “Islamic Republic” in their names? Use “islamic republic” inurl:/r/pa/ei/bgn/



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