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British Parliamentary Papers in the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center: Commons/Lords Sessional Papers & Debates in the Knowledge Center/Online Sources

This guide was prepared by prepared by Patrick Ragains, Joanne Guyton, and Paulette Bochnig Sharkey.

British Parliamentary Government Online

British Parliament Building and Big Ben at Dusk

The British Parliament and Big Ben. Image by Maurice; obtained under Creative Commons license from Wikimedia Commons.

Guides to British Documents: Books in the Knowledge Center

Butcher, David. Official publications in Britain. London: Bingley, 1983. MARS Storage: Z2009.B87 1983

Ford, Percy. A guide to Parliamentary Papers: what they are, how to find them, how to use them. 3rd ed. Shannon, Ireland: Irish University Press, 1972. MARS Storage:  Z2009.A1F6 1972a. A detailed guide to finding House of Commons and Lords debates, proceedings, and Sessional Papers.

Olle, James Gordon Herbert. An introduction to British government publications. 2nd ed., fully revised and enlarged. London: Association of Assistant Librarians, 1973. MARS Storage:  Z2009.O4 1973

Pemberton, John E. British official publications. 2d rev. ed. Oxford: Pergamon Press [1973]. MARS Storage:  Z2009.P45 1973

Richard, Stephen. Directory of British official publications: a guide to sources. 2nd ed. London; New York: Mansell Pub., 1984. MARS Storage:  Z2000.9.R42 1984

Rodgers, Frank. A guide to British government publications. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1980. MARS Storage:  Z2009.R62. Encyclopedic history and description of non-Parliamentary and Parliamentary British documents, including debates, votes, and statutes.

Vandercook, Sharon. A guide to British documents and records in the University of Virginia Library. Charlottesville: Reference Dept., University of Virginia Library, 1972. MARS Storage:  Z2009.V3

House of Commons Sessional Papers in Print and Microform

HOUSE OF COMMONS SESSIONAL PAPERS

Sessional Papers (more recently "Parliamentary Papers") is the collective name for documents issued by and published for the House of Commons and separately for the House of Lords of the British Parliament. Because a large percentage of British government reports are reissued by Parliament, Sessional Papers are a particularly rich source of information on social, economic, and political history.

Publications included in the Sessional Papers

PUBLIC BILLS, which relate to public policy, are first numbered when introduced, and each amended version receives a new number. PRIVATE BILLS, introduced for the particular interest of individuals, public bodies, or local authorities, are not officially printed until they become Acts and do not appear in the Sessional Papers.

REPORTS OF COMMITTEES may be generated by the House of Commons sitting as a Committee of the Whole, or by Select Committees (with a membership of Commons members only), or Joint Select Committees (with a membership of both Houses of Parliament). Reports cover the subject matter and texts of proposed legislation as well as the minutes of Committee meetings.

RETURNS are administrative or executive reports issued periodically or special reports that are required by an Act of Parliament.

ACT PAPERS are similar to RETURNS but are mostly from non-departmental agencies, such as national boards, corporations, and authorities established by Parliament.

ROYAL COMMISSION PAPERS AND REPORTS are reports of specially appointed commissions of investigation, not created by Parliament but by Royal Warrant. They may include state papers on foreign affairs, reports issued on the authority of a government department, reports from ad hoc committees, and statistical returns. Many are issued as COMMAND PAPERS (described below).

COMMAND PAPERS are reports sent to Parliament through the initiative of the government minister or by Royal Warrant rather than required by an Act of Parliament. They include:

State papers (Treaty Series, Country Series, Miscellaneous)
Policy papers (or White papers)
Some annual reports
Reports of royal commissions
Reports of departmental committees
Reports of tribunals and commissions of inquiry
Statistical reports

Command Papers are numbered consecutively and have been published thus far in five series, distinguished by letter prefixes:

First Series 1- 4222 1833-69
Second Series C.1 -C.9550 1870-99
Third Series Cd.1 -Cd.9239 1900-18
Fourth Series Cmd.1 -Cmd.9889 1919-56
Fifth Series Cmnd.1- 1956-

Eighteenth Century Papers

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. Journals of the House of Commons. v.1-155; 1547-1900.
MICROFORM COLLECTION: MICROPRINT G4. Reprints many of the Commons' reports prior to the 19th Century. References are cited in the Journal's own indexes and in Hansard's Catalogue and Breviate.

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. General index to the reports from committees of the House of Commons, 1715-1801; forming the series of fifteen volumes of reports. MICROFORM COLLECTION: Microform Index Area J301.K57 Index 1803a

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. British Sessional papers. 1731-1800. MICROFORM COLLECTION: MICROPRINT G5. Excludes those papers appearing in the House of Commons Journal. The papers are arranged in four sequences: Accounts and Papers, Catalogue of Papers, Bills, and Reports. The Catalogue has a chronological listing of the contents and includes an index by subject.

Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Papers

Each session of Parliament usually lasts one year. There may be over 50 volumes of Parliamentary Papers for each session. The order of papers, until 1968/69, is as follows:

PUBLIC BILLS, arranged alphabetically by their titles

REPORTS FROM COMMITTEES, arranged by subject or name of committee

REPORTS FROM COMMISSIONERS, etc., arranged by subject. Many Command Papers included here.

ACCOUNTS AND PAPERS, arranged in a traditional order, by which Finance comes first, followed by Security, Defense, the Civil Estimate, Trade and Navigational Accounts, Treaties, and International Agreements.

SESSIONAL INDEX, lists Bills, Papers, Command Papers, and Reports separately in numerical order and includes a detailed alphabetical index to all Sessional Papers. Refers to volume number and page if the pages in each volume were numbered.

Beginning with the session of 1969/70, there are only two sequences:

PUBLIC BILLS, arranged alphabetically but with the minutes of proceedings of committees placed immediately after the bill to which they refer.

REPORTS, ACCOUNTS AND PAPERS, in a single alphabetical subject arrangement.

SESSIONAL INDEX, same as above.

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons.

British Sessional papers.  MICROFORMS COLLECTION: MICROPRINT G5 (covers 1801-1979);

Cm Papers (Command Papers).  MICROFORMS COLLECTION: MICROFICHE G0089: 1(1986/1987)-6374(2003/2004)

Cmnd Papers (Command Papers). MICROFORMS COLLECTION: MICROFICHE G0088: 7461(1979/1980)-9927(1985/l986)

HC Bills MICROFORMS COLLECTION: MICROFICHE G0087 (1979/1980-2003/2004)

HC Papers. MICROFORMS COLLECTION: MICROFICHE G90 (covers 1979/80-2003/04).

Sessional Index for session ... MICROFORMS COLLECTION: MICROFICHE G91: 1979/1980-1995/1996,1997/1998-1999/2000.

Sessional papers are also indexed by subject in Government Publications; consolidated list [title varies]. 1971-2001 London: H.M. Stationery Office.  MICROFORMS COLLECTION: Z2009.G85 

Indexes to Sessional Papers

General Indexes to Sessional Papers

DiRoma, Edward. A numerical finding list of British Command Papers published 1833-1961/62. New York: New York Public Library. 1967.  MARS Storage Z2009.D5. Lists the five series of Command Papers by individual number, providing the year, volume number and page on which it appears in the Sessional Papers (see entry no. 4 above).

Ford, Percy. Select list of British Parliamentary papers. 1833-1899. Shannon, Ireland: Irish University Press, 1969. MICROFORMS COLLECTION: Index Area J301.M3 1953. Subject listing of selected Commons papers and Lords papers not reprinted by the House of Commons. Provides for each report a citation to the Sessional Papers.

Ford, Percy. A breviate of Parliamentary papers. 1900-1916. Oxford: Blackwell, 1957. MICROFORMS COLLECTION: Index Area JN549.F59 1969. Lists selected Commons and Lords Sessional Papers by broad subject heading. Provides citation to the complete text and an abstract of each document. Indexed by author and keyword-in-title.

Ford, Percy. A breviate of Parliamentary papers. 1917-1939. Oxford: Blackwell. 1951. MICROFORMS COLLECTION: Index Area JN549.F6 1969. Lists selected Commons and Lords Sessional Papers by broad subject heading. Provides citation to the complete text and an abstract of each document. Indexed by author and keyword-in-title.

Ford. Percy. A breviate of Parliamentary papers. 1940-1954. Oxford: Blackwell. 1961. MICROFORMS COLLECTION: Index Area JN549.F62. Lists selected Commons and Lords Sessional Papers by broad subject heading. Provides citation to the complete text and an abstract of each document. Indexed by author and keyword-in-title.

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. General alphabetical index to the bills, reports, estimates, accounts and papers. 1801-1899. MICROFORMS COLLECTION: Index Area J301.K6 Index 1853a (covers 1801-1852); MICROFORMS COLLECTION: Index Area J301.K6 Index 1909 v.1 and v.2 (covers 1852-1899). Arranged by broad subject heading. Each heading has a table of contents listing specific subjects and types of documents included. Citations give the year of the session, a paper number in parentheses, Roman numeral for the volume number of that session, and a page number. The paper number in parentheses is not needed to locate the document.

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. General index to the bills, reports and papers ...and to the reports and papers presented by command. 1900-1948/49. MICROFORMS COLLECTION: Index Area J301.K6 Index 1960. Arranged alphabetically by subject. For each paper, citation is given to the year of the session, a paper number in parentheses, Roman numeral for the volume number of that session, and page number. The paper number given in parentheses is not needed to locate the document.

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. Hansard's Catalogue and breviate of Parliamentary Papers. 1696-1834. Oxford. Blackwell, 1953. MICROFORMS COLLECTION: Index Area J301.K62 1953. Lists Commons papers by broad subject category. Citations are made to the House of Commons Journal (entry 1) and the Sessional Papers (entry 4). Indexed by author and detailed subject. A separate chart lists relevant House of Lords papers not reprinted by the House of Commons.

Great Britain. Stationery Office.Annual catalogues of British official and parliamentary publications. 1894-1919. MARS Storage Z2009.G82 1975 (covers 1894-1909); MARS Storage Z2009.G83 1975 (covers 1910-1919).

Great Britain. Stationery Office. Catalogues and indexes of British government publications, 1920-1970 MARS Storage Z2009.G84 1974 v. 1-5.

Great Britain. Stationery Office. Consolidated index to government publications. 1971-1980. London: H.M. Stationery Office. MARS Storage Z2009.G85. Annual list of all British government publications with annual cumulation. Provides a subject and numerical approach to current Bills, Reports, Accounts and Papers.

Irish University Press. Checklist of British parliamentary papers in the Irish University Press 1000-volume series. 1801-1899. Shannon. Ireland [1972].  MARS Storage Z2019.I73

McBride. Elizabeth A. British command papers: a numerical finding list. 1962/63-1976/77. Atlanta, Ga. : Emory General Libraries, Emory University. 1982. MARS Storage Z2009.D51. Supplements: A Numerical Finding List of British Command Papers Published 1833-1961/62. Morgan. Annie Mary.

Morgan, Annie Mary. British Government publications: an index to chairmen and authors. 1941-1966. London: Library Association, Reference. Special and Information Section in association with Birmingham Public Libraries, 1969.  MARS Storage Z2009.M64

Readex index to British parliamentary papers. New Canaan, CT: NewsBank/Readex, 1989/90-2003/04. MARS Storage CD-ROM 007 (ask the staff to retrieve and load this disc). CD-ROM index to the British parliamentary papers, including the House of Commons sessional papers, the House of Lords sessional papers and Hansard's debates.

Rodgers. Frank.Serial publications in the British Parliamentary papers. 1900-1968; a bibliography. Chicago: ALA, 1971. MARS Storage Z2009.R63. Lists by issuing agency all serials that have appeared in the House of Commons Sessional Papers during the twentieth century and briefly indicates their publishing history. Also provides a key to the subject headings used in the principal indexes of parliamentary papers.

Temperley, Harold William Vazeille. A century of diplomatic blue books. 1814-1914. Cambridge, England: The University Press. 1938.MARS Storage Z2009.T28 1966. Lists papers relating to British foreign affairs appearing in the House of Commons Sessional Papers, House of Commons Journals, and House of Lords Sessional Papers. Arranged chronologically with indexes by subject and country.

Vogel, Robert. A breviate of British diplomatic blue books. 1919-1939. Montreal: McGill University Press, 1963. MARS Storage Z2009.V6. Lists chronologically all Bills, Papers and Command Papers on British foreign affairs appearing in the House of Commons Sessional Papers. Indexed by country and subject.

House of Lords Sessional Papers

Publications Included:

Like their House of Commons counterpart, House of Lords Sessional Papers include Bills, Reports, Accounts and Papers; Command Papers were included from 1833-1870. While much of the Lords material is duplicated in the Commons Sessional Papers (see entry no 4 above), the Lords versions of Bills, Peerage Cases, Procedural Papers and early 19th century Reports from Committees are unique.

Publishing Arrangement:

Each session of Parliament usually lasts one year. The arrangement of volumes for the early 19th Century varied with the individual set. Between the 1830s and the early 20th century, each session's papers were grouped as follows:

MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
MANUSCRIPTS
BILLS
REPORTS OF SELECT COMMITTEES
ACCOUNTS AND PAPERS
SESSIONAL INDEXES (1886-1920 only)

Beginning with the 1920s, the House of Lords Sessional Papers appear in just two sequences:

PUBLIC BILLS, arranged alphabetically by subject
MISCELLANEOUS, papers arranged alphabetically by type of document or subject

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Lords. Sessional papers. MARS Storage: MICROPRINT G5 (covers 1940-1976); MICROFORMS COLLECTION MICROFICHE G0086 (1976/77-1991/92). An index appears for each session.

If UNR does not own a particular paper from the House of Lords, first check the House of Commons for its inclusion in the latter set indexes.

Parliamentary Debates

The Parliamentary Debates (often referred to as "Hansard" after Thomas Curson Hansard, printer to the House of Commons) present an accurate and dispassionate record of what is said in Parliament. The names of Members who address the House are given without party labels, Ministers are identified by the names of the posts they hold and back benchers by the names of the constituencies they represent.

The Debates are published daily. The final reprint of the reports, incorporating approved corrections, appears in permanent bound volumes. The Debates are indexed under the names of the Members who addressed the House, the subjects they spoke about and the subjects covered by written answers.

The Debates from 1803 have been published in five series:

1st series: November 1803--February 1820
2nd series: April 1820--July 1830
3rd series: October 1830--August 1891
4th series: February 1892--December 1908
5th series: February 1909--

Debates in the House of Lords have been reported and published separately since 1909; before then a summary had been published in the same volumes as the Commons Debates.

UNR's holdings of British parliamentary debates are listed below in chronological order:

Cobbett's parliamentary history of England from the earliest period to the year 1803 v. 1-36; London : Printed by T.C. Hansard for R. Bagshaw, 1806-1820 ; New York : AMS Press, 1966. MARS Storage J301 .H5 1966.

The parliamentary debates...[1812-1820; electronic resource] London : Printed for Longman, Husrt, Rees, Orme, and Brown [etc.], 1812-1820.

The parliamentary debates (Authorized edition). MARS Storage: J301.H22 Ser. 3, V.1-44 (covers Oct. 26, 1830--Aug. 16, 1838); MARS Storage: J301 .H225, V.152-199 (covers Feb. 13, 1906-Dec. 21, 1908).

House of Commons. Parliamentary debates (Hansard) official report. London: H.M. Stationery Office.  MARS Storage: J301.K22 (covers Feb. 15, 1916-May 25, 1979. Holdings are mostly complete, with large gaps in the years 1932-35 and 1942-45).

House of Lords. Parliamentary debates (Hansard) official report. London: H.M. Stationery Office.  MARS Storage: J301.J22 ser.5 , V.274-403 (covers Apr. 18, 1966-Dec. 20, 1979).

Indexes to Debates

Indexes appear for each session of Parliament in bound editions of the Debates series listed above.

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. Library. A bibliography of parliamentary debates of Great Britain. London: H.M. Stationery Off., 1956. MARS Storage: Z2009.G7

Subject Guide

Pat Ragains
Contact:
DeLaMare Library
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First floor atrium; MM 109
Phone: (775) 682-5593