The Cross-National Time-Series Data Archive was a product of the State University of New York (Binghamton), launched in the fall of 1968 by Arthur S. Banks (1926-2011) under the aegis of the University's Center for Comparative Political Research (subsequently the Center for Social Analysis). Arthur S. Banks was Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York. His lengthy service (1968-1996) included nearly a decade as department chairman. His numerous publications include A Cross-Polity Survey (with Robert B. Textor, 1963) and senior editorship of the Political Handbook of the World from 1975 to 1997.

The archive was, in part, the outcome of an effort initiated a year earlier to assemble, in machine readable, longitudinal format, certain of the aggregate data resources of The Statesman's Yearbook, an annual with a history of continuous publication since 1864, which had never been systematically mined for quantitative materials of potential utility for comparative social scientists. Many of the data extracted from this source proved, however to be of questionable reliability (particularly for the earlier years) and a large number of additional sources were ultimately consulted. As a result of this, The Statesman's Yearbook was subsequently abandoned as a primary source.

In establishing the archive, it was decided to assemble materials, insofar as possible, dating from 1815 (immediately after the Congress of Vienna and formation of the modern international system). It was also decided that all commonly recognized members of the international community should be represented, excluding a handful of quasi-states such as Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Vatican City. In 1977, data for the latter were also introduced, with coverage extending from 1975.

The original file was punched and stored on IBM cards, but these quickly became too numerous for efficient utilization and, in the fall of 1969, were abandoned in favor of tape storage, for which various update, listing, and extraction procedures were concurrently developed.

In January 1971, 102 of the archive's variables were presented in a volume entitled Cross-Polity Time-Series Data. For some years thereafter magnetic tape copies of the file were distributed from Binghamton.

Currently the CNTS Data Archive is distributed by Databanks International in an Excel format. The Archive continued to be updated with data supplied by Dr. Banks until he passed away in April of 2011 and continues to be updated using his same sources.