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Early American History: British Parliamentary Papers

Guide to resources for Early American history research- Originally created for Dr. Shannon Duffy's history classes

Alkek Library Holdings


This page describes the major collections of British Parliamentary Records available through the Alkek Library, and the reference tools necessary to access them.

The three major categories of Parliamentary papers are as follows: 1) Sessional Papers; 2) Journals; and 3) Debates. Publications of each of these categories exist for both houses of Parliament -- the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

1) Sessional or Parliamentary papers are the working documents of each session of Parliament and are divided into three types: Bills, Reports and Command Papers. There is an extremely high overlap between the Lords' and the Commons' papers, and it is only since the early 1920's that the Lords' sessional papers are indeed unique to the Lords.

2) Journals record the proceedings and decisions made in each house. Journals have been printed for each session of Parliament since 1509 for the Lords (preceded by the Rolls of Parliament) and since 1547 for the Commons (except for the period 1584-1601).

3) Debates are the record of the actual discussion on the floors of both houses. They are often called Hansard's after their early nineteenth-century publisher.

Images of Debates, 1066-1803

Cobbett's Parliamentary History of England at Oxford Digital Library

House of Commons Papers and Indexes: 18th Century

Alkek Library has access to Reports from the Commitees of the House of Commons 1803-1806 via our "Making of the Modern World database. 

House of Commons Debates

Indexes by session are with the Debates. They are most complete for names of speakers and geographic names but not as detailed for thematic subjects. References in the indexes are to column numbers. Prior to 1803, unofficial sources such as newspapers and private reports have to be relied upon and it is important to bear this in mind when using them. Bobst owns the following unofficial records of the debates:

House of Lords Debates   (Search in Hathi Trust Database)

Guides to British Governmental and Parliamentary Papers

  • Wilding, Norman & Philip Laundy. An Encyclopaedia of Parliament. 
    Useful, alphabetically arranged encyclopedia of parliamentary history and procedures.

How to Read a Citation to Parliamentary Papers

How to Read a Citation to Parliamentary Papers

A complete citation to a parliamentary paper should resemble the example below. The citation may appear with or without the name of the bill, report or paper. The numbers correspond to the following information: session/paper number/volume of bound set/volume page number.

Game Law. Sel Cttee. Report; 1845(602): xii, 331
-- or simply --
1845(602): xii, 331

Sessions may be given as one year (1845) or two consecutive years, since Parliamentary sessions varied in length and starting date. The volume of the bound set (xii) is often given in Roman numerals, followed by the page number (331) within the bound volume on which the paper begins. The volume and page numbers are the most important information for locating the item within the bound sets. The report number (602) usually appears on the first page of the item. References are usually to House of Commons papers; references to reports appearing only in the House of Lords papers should have a paper number preceded by "HL". The examples on this page are from:

  • Cornish, W.R. et al., Crime and Law in Nineteenth Century Britain. (Government and Society in Nineteenth Century Britain/Commentaries on British Parliamentary Papers). Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1978, p. vii.