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U.K. Parliamentary Papers

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers are foremost among the richest and most detailed primary sources for the past three centuries, for Britain, its colonies and the wider world. As such, they constitute a major part of the world’s historical record. Parliamentary Papers influenced public opinion and social and political philosophy and provided a forum for the ideas of thinkers of the day.

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers  (HCPP) includes the complete file of House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, also known as Sessional Papers or Blue Books, dating from 1715 through to today.

This includes:

  • Bills – drafts of legislation, to be reviewed through various parliamentary stages.
  • House of Commons Papers – documents resulting from the work of the House of Commons.
  • Command Papers – government papers conveying information or decisions the Government wishes to draw to attention of the House, presented ‘by Command of Her Majesty’.

The latter two categories breakdown further into:

  • Reports of Committees – Select or the Whole House. Appointed to investigate issues of concern.
  • Reports of Commissioners – commissions appointed by the Crown to investigate social problems, to conduct inquiries into events, and as a preparation for legislation.
  • Accounts – statistical information, originating primarily from the Treasury, the Board of Trade and the War Office/Admiralty.
  • Papers – correspondence from ambassadors, governors, army officers abroad; commercial, trade and navigation accounts, statistical abstracts: judicial, taxation, etc; census data; slavery and slave trade documents; treaties.

Plus, the 18th Century Collection includes pre-Hansard debates, House of Lords and House of Commons journals, rare private bills, other legislative materials, and reports and papers presented to both Houses.

House of Commons - Command Papers

Command Papers are Parliamentary Papers presented to the United Kingdom Parliament nominally by command of the Sovereign, but in practice by a Government Minister. The numbering is continuous over sessions of Parliament; they are differentiated by a letter prefix:

[1] to [4222] 1833-1868/69

C.1 to C.9550 1870-1899

Cd.1 to Cd.9239 1900-1918

Cmd.1 to Cmd.9889 1919-1955/56

Cmnd.1 to Cmnd.9927 1956/57-1985/86

Cm.1 1986/87 to date

Note:  The House of Lords does not generate command papers.

House of Commons subject coverage

This collection contains printed documents from 1688–1834 that illuminates many aspects of 18th century history, from the widespread use of automated workflow during the industrial revolution to the shaping of a new democratic system during the American Revolution. Coverage also includes Edward Jenner’s work with vaccination, the abolition of slavery, navigations of James Cook, the Seven Year War, the Battle of Trafalgar and the tenure of Great Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole.

19th Century topics range from the Industrial Revolution to the interaction of colonial forces with indigenous peoples in Australasia and North America

20th Century House of Commons Parliamentary Papers includes a comprehensive subject index for the century which is based upon the HMSO General Alphabetical Indexes from 1900–1979 and the Parliamentary On-Line Information Service (POLIS) database beginning in 1979. Broad subject terms (categories) from Peter Cockton’s Subject Catalogue of the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers 1801–1900 have been combined with existing HMSO/POLIS terms along with new modern terms such as ‘communications and mass media’ to create the only comprehensive index to the papers from 1901 to current sessions. Users can search on such topics as the World Wars, decolonisation, the formation of NATO and the United Nations, the IRA, Cold War, Falklands War, dismantling of Apartheid, September 11 and anti-terror laws.

Content in 21st Century House of Commons Parliamentary Papers covers areas such as Scottish and Welsh devolution, counter-terrorism, future plans for the UK armed forces including Trident, and NHS reform.

Hansards - outlawing slavery in the British Empire in 1833. The discussions in the House of Lords about the passing of the Parliament Act of 1911 which limited their power. The debates on the Suez intervention in November 1956, alongside the treaties and agreements concerning the Suez Canal. Debates on the European Union and the single currency and potential for a referendum, together with Treasury papers on economic and monetary union, reports of the Select Committee on European legislation, and proposed referendum bills

House of Lords Papers

ProQuest has partnered with the National Library of Scotland to create the very first digitised collection of 19th Century House of Lords Parliamentary Papers, providing online access to previously unseen and valuable historical documents.  This new collection improves research outcomes for scholars of British History, British Government, Political Science, History and more.

As the working documents of government, the House of Lords Parliamentary Papers encompass wide areas of social, political, economic and foreign policy, providing evidence of committees and commissions during a time when the Lords in the United Kingdom wielded considerable power. Most importantly from a legislative perspective, this collection will include many bills which originated and were subsequently rejected by the Lords – rich indicators of the direction and interests of the Lords that have been largely lost to researchers.

Further, the final version of a bill passing from Commons to the Lords will also be included in the newly digitised papers. The collection will shed new light on edits and revisions taken by the Lords on these key bills in their last stages of the legislative process and will provide a full study and understanding of this activity. The House of Lords Parliamentary Papers will fill in the gap in how legislation was authored, amended, and passed. Revealing previously unknown material such as statistical data, oral evidence, and letters and business papers relating not only to Britain but also to the many parts of the world that were under British influence during that time, this is a highly valuable resource.

There are very few surviving copies of this important historical collection because of the way the documents were originally printed and stored. The National Library of Scotland has one of the most comprehensive sets in existence as part of its world class collections and is delighted to be working closely with the House of Lords Library to deliver this project.

Dr John Scally, Scotland’s National Librarian said: “More British Prime Ministers served in the Lords in the 19th century than in the House of Commons, despite the progressive dwindling of the influence of the upper chamber. This is a fascinating period in our history and digitisation will make these important papers available on any screen anytime, anywhere....”

Public Petitions to Parliament - 1833-1918

Public Petitions to Parliament, 1833-1918 is an online module of Parliamentary Papers covering the records of the Select Committee on Public Petitions, 1833-1918.  It includes individually rekeyed metadata records for every one of the >900,000 petitions accepted by Parliament and includes the full text of each petition that the Committee transcribed. Integrated fully with U.K. Parliamentary Papers, this collection shows how “the people” during the 19th C influenced Parliament on political, ecclesiastical, colonial, taxation, and many other topics relevant to the study of Britain and the British Empire within a range of different disciplines within the historical and social studies.

Petitioning was by far the most popular form of political participation, but it has long been overlooked by historians and social scientists preoccupied with elections and election rituals, campaigns to extend the right to vote, and the rise of national political parties.  Utility of public petitions can be used to study the groundswell of public pressure for the expansion of the voting franchise and also to see  the views and priorities of both the populace and Parliament. How Parliament addresses the petition, or doesn’t address it, is a stark indicator of political and social priorities.

Containing petitions on ecclesiastical issues, crime and criminals, colonies, taxation, education, and on every other issue of interest to the populace of Britain, this project appeals to all social, cultural, and religious scholars of Britain. From religious scholars interested on Methodism and the Church of England, scientists concerned with pollution and pollution controls during the Industrial Revolution, and sociologists concerned with how these issues were influenced by and influenced the People, the popular constitutionalism inherent in this collection (as opposed to the "top down" approach to looking at history), is at the cutting edge of historical research today and has wide appeal across campus.