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British Government Publications - Research Guide

This guide describes the major collections of British government publications available in Van Pelt Library of the University of Pennsylvania and the reference apparatus necessary to access them. It does not cover the census materials from the United Kingdom housed at Van Pelt or the thousands of separately cataloged documents. It should also be noted that there are substantial collections at the Biddle Law Library. Check LOLA for listings.

I. Guide to British Government Publications

Rogers, Frank. Guide to British Government Publications. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1980. 750 pp.
[Van Pelt Reference Desk: J301 .M3 1980]
Very detailed. Especially useful for non-Parliamentary publications.

Ollé, J. G. An Introduction to British Government Publications 2nd ed. London: Association of Assistant Librarians, 1973. 175pp.
[Van Pelt Reference Stacks: Z2009 .O4 1973]
Clearest introduction. Mostly devoted to Parliamentary publications.

Ford, Percy and Grace Ford. A Guide to Parliamentary Papers: What They Are; How to Find Them. 3rd ed. Shannon: Irish University Press, 1972. 87 pp.
[Van Pelt Library Reference Stacks: Z2009 .A1 F6 1972]

*****There is also a notebook at the Reference Desk concerning British Government publications. It includes a variety of more specialized materials such as annotated lists of census materials in 19th century Parliamentary papers, articles on the Journals of Commons and Lords and details on the King Collection.

II. Parliamentary Publications

The vast majority of requests for British government documents are for publications from the Parliament. These are divided into three kinds: 1) Journals 2) Debates and 3) Sessional Papers. Each kind exists for both houses of Parliament--Commons and Lords.

Journals record the decisions made in each house.

Debates are the record of what is said in each house. They are usually called Hansard after their early nineteenth century publisher.

Sessional or Parliamentary Papers are the working documents of each session of Parliament and are divided into three parts: Bills, Reports and Command Papers. The last type are ostensibly printed at the "Command of the Sovereign" and are relied on heavily by the Parliament since their origin is found in the various ministries and are often the most detailed information available on British Policy issues. There is an extremely high overlap between the Lords' and the Commons' papers. Since about 1920 only those papers which are unique to Lords become part of the Lords' Sessional Papers.

House of Commons

1547-1896: J 301 .K3
1547-1900: Microprint 3 (Gov Docs Room)
1986- . : Microfiche 110
INDEXES: each year has its own index.

Debates (The University of Pennsylvania only subscribes to the annual debates)
1066-1803 : J 301 .H5. Cobbett's Parliamentary history of England from the Norman Conquest in 1066 to the year 1803. Compiled from various sources, Cobbett's provides access to selected important debates from the House of Commons and, to a lesser extent, the House of Lords. Coverage in Cobbett's is supplemented for the 17th and 18th century by a number of parallel publications that are also selective
1559-1601 (d'Ewes) Journals of all the Parliaments during the reign of Queen Elizabeth
1589-1602 Townshend's An exact Account of the Proceedings of the Four last Parliaments of Q. Elizabeth
1667-1694 (selected): Grey's Debates of the House of Commons.
1660-1743 (selected): Chandler's History and Proceedings of the House of Commons.
1660-1742 (selected): History and Proceedings of the House of Lords.
1668-1739 (selected): A collection of the parliamentary debates in England, from the year M,DC,LXVIII. to the present time.
1732-1749 (selected): Gentleman's Magazine. Do a search for debate* to get a list of debates listed in chronological order.
1740-1743 (selected): Debates in Parliament. By Samuel Johnson, LL.D. In two volumes.
1743-1774 (selected): The history, debates, and proceedings of both Houses of Parliament of Great Britain, from the year 1743 to the year 1774 containing the most interesting motions, speeches, resolutions ... and papers : together with the supplies and ways and means of each session : also lists of each Parliament, and of the divisions upon the most important questions. Available through Interlibrary Loan.
1774-1805: The Parliamentary Register.
1812-1820 : Parliamentary Debates from the year 1803 to the current time.
1820-1828 : Parliamentary Debates.
1830-1891 : Hansard's Parliamentary Debates.
1892-1908 : The Parliamentary Debates.
1803-1908 : J 301 .H22
1909-1986 : LIBRA J 301 .K22
1986- .: Microfiche 110A
1988- :Hansard (House of Commons Daily Debates)
INDEXES: 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.
Parliamentary debates relating to the American colonies:
Proceedings and debates of the British Parliaments respecting North America, 1754-1783
Van Pelt Library: E187 .G79 1982
Proceedings and debates of the British parliaments respecting North America, 1542-1739
Van Pelt Library: AS32 .A5 no.338

Sessional or Parliamentary Papers

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, 1715-

1731-1913: Microprint 2 (Gov Docs Room)
1914-1980: Storage J 301 .K6
1980- .: Microfiche 110
Over the years these have been arranged in a variety of ways. Sometimes they have been arranged by subject, all three types of papers interfiled; most often they are arranged by type of paper numerically.

The 19th Century House of Commons Parliamentary Papers Online are subscribed to by Temple University and can be used on site in the Temple University libraries.

Indexes to Parliamentary Papers

Current: consult HMSO Annual Catalogue(H. Majesty's Stationery Office) g-- [Van Pelt Library Reference Stacks: Z2009 .G882]
The papers themselves also have an annual index but it is not very detailed.

Retrospective: "Fifty-year indexes" [Van Pelt Library Reference Stacks: J301 .K6 Index]
These cover three time periods:

It is essential to be extremely persistent and creative when using these subject indexes, especially with the one covering 1852-1899, since in many cases a document is listed only once. Each type of paper has its own section. For each entry the form of citation is standardized:

session--paper no.--vol. no. in that session--first page no. e.g.: 1908 (85) cxvi 311

If the paper is a command paper it will be indicated by an abbreviation forming part of the word "command" such as Cd.--e.g. Cmmd. 8168. An index by command paper number is:

Di Roma, E. A Numerical Finding List of British Command Papers Published 1833-1961/62. New York: New York Public Library, 1967.
[Van Pelt Reference Stacks: Z2009 .D5 and suppl. to 1976]

General Index
[Van Pelt Library Reference Stacks: Z2019 .I74], v. 1-8.
These are partof the reprint series of the British Parliamentary Papers from the Irish University Press (see below). Contents: 1. 1696-1834. Hansards Catalogue. 2. 1801-1852. Reports of select committees. 3. 1801-1852. Accounts and papers. 4. 1852-1869. Bills, reports, estimates, accounts, and papers. 5. 1801-1852. Bills, printed by order of the House of Commons. 6. 1870-1879. Bills, reports, estimates, accounts, and papers. 7. 1880-1889. Bills, reports, estimates, accounts, and papers. 8. 1890-1899. Bills, reports, estimates, accounts, and papers.

Indexes of British Parliamentary Papers: CD-ROM Edition
[Van Pelt Reference Moelis: J301.M3 1997]
Covers House of Commons 1801-1944/45, House of Lords 1801-1922. Uses the Sessional Indexes as its source and is much simpler to use since it allows for keyword searching.

"Cockton Catalog"
Subject Catalog of the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers 1801- 1900. 5 vols.
[Van Pelt Reference Stacks: DA530 .C63 1988]
Divided into 19 chapters with subdivisions on specific subjects, this is the most detailed index for the Nineteenth Century papers. Most other lists are selective, this one is comprehensive. The alphabetic list of subject terms is in vol. 5. The citation format follows the system of the "fifty year indexes." (see above)

"Abbot Collection" 1731-1800 Catalogue of Papers Printed by Order of the House of Commons from the year 1731-1800.
[Van Pelt Reference Stacks: J301 .A2 1800a]
Since it indexes the collection pulled together by one early nineteenth century speaker, it is limited in scope. On the other hand, it is this collection which serves as the basis for the eighteenth century portion of the Readex Microprint 2 set.

"Breviates" "Select Lists"
[Van Pelt Library Reference Stacks: J301 .M3]
Currently in 7 parts:
An enhanced version covering 1801-1995 is available online as BOPCRIS

Except for the first volume, abstracts of papers are included. They list major papers relating to internal United Kingdom affairs only; foreign policy is excluded. The detailed table of contents serves as a subject index.
Also see "Hansard's Catalogue and Breviate, 1696-1834" (Van Pelt Reference: J301 .K62).

House of Lords

1509-1833: Van Pelt Library Stacks: J 301 .J3
INDEXES: see above under House of Commons

1909-1986: LIBRA J 301 .J22
1986- .: Microfiche 110
1998- :Hansard - House of Lords Debates
INDEXES: see above under House of Commons

Sessional or Parliamentay Papers
1952-1985: LIBRA J 301 .J6
1986- .: Microfiche 110

Many, but by no means all, of the important Lords' papers were included in the historical collections of Commons' papers.

Indexes to Parliamentary Papers

Current: consult HMSO (H. Majesty's Stationery Office) catalog [Van Pelt Library Reference: Z2009 .G882]
The papers themselves also have an annual index but it is not very detailed.

Retrospective: the retrospective indexes for sessional papers of the House of Commons (listed above) are also relevant for Lords' papers.

See also General Index to the Sessional Papers Printed by Order of the House of Lords.
[Van Pelt Reference Stacks: J301 .J6].
In two parts: 1801-1859, 1859-1885.

Alternative Parliamentary Collections

The Irish University Press 1000-volume series 1801-1899 is a simple way of accessing the most important papers. It is divided into 32 subject sections, each with their own call number. Begin with the checklist [Van Pelt Reference Stacks: Z2019 .I73] and catalog [Van Pelt Reference Stacks: Z2019 .I732]. To retrieve listings in Franklin for the separate topical parts, try a keyword search on "irish university press" AND "british parliamentary papers". For indexes see:

Checklist of British Parliamentary Papers in the Irish University Press 1000-volume series, 1801-1899. Shannon, Ireland [1972]
[Van Pelt Library Reference Stacks: Z2019 .I73]

Catalogue of British parliamentary papers in the Irish University Press 1000-volume series and area studies series, 1801-1900
[Van Pelt Library Reference Stacks: Z2019 .I732]

Another very useful alternative, since its organization is simpler, to the other cataloged sets of British Parliamentary Publications is the King Collection which is a selection covering 1801-1879
[LIBRA: J301 .H55].
A subject index is available [Van Pelt Library Reference Stacks: J301 .M3 1899] and there is also a card file which lists the collection's contents chronologically shelved under the reference desk.

For materials from the eighteenth century in reprint see Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century edited by Sheila Lambert.[Van Pelt Library Stacks: J301.K64]

III. Collections of Statutes

Acts of UK Parliament.
Includes the full-text of Public Acts from 1988 forward and the full-text of Local Acts from 1991 forward.

Public General Acts
[Van Pelt Library: 346 G792.3], 1869-1907.
[Biddle Law Library: KH/KD 135 L3], 1866-1869, 1870-1875, 1877-1925, 1926-1939
Title varies.

The statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. London : His Majesty's Statute and Law Printers, 1807-1869.
[Biddle Law Library: KH/KD 129 G7], Vol. 47 (1807)-v. 109 (1868/69).

Great Britain. The statutes at large, from Magna Charta, to the end of the last Parliament, 1761, [continued to 1800]... London : printed by Mark Baskett, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty, and by the Assigns of Robert Baskett; and by Henry Woodfall and William Strahan, Law Printers to the King's Most Excellent Majesty, 1768-1800.
[Van Pelt Library Rare Bk & Ms Library RBC: KD130 .E53], v.2-18.
A new edition of the first eight volumes of Ruffhead's "Statutes at large" (originally published 1763-1764), with the addition of v. 9-18, which continue the series to 1800.

Great Britain. The Chronological Index to the Statutes of the Realm: from Magna Carta to the End of the Reign of Queen Anne [London : G. Eyre & A. Strahan], 1828. 939 p. ; 50 cm. Compiled by J. Raithby.
[Van Pelt Library Stacks: 346 G79 index]

The statutes at large from Magna Charta, to the end of the Eleventh Parliament of Great Britain, anno 1761 Cambridge : Printed by J. Bentham, 1762-1807
[Biddle Law Library: KH/KD 129 G7], v.1-6, v.10, v.12-46

Acts and ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660 / collected and edited by C.H. Firth and R.S. Rait for the Statute Law Committee
[Biddle Law Library: KH/KD 1642], v. 1-3.
v. 1. Acts and ordinances from 5th March, 1642 to 30th January, 1649 -- v. 2. Acts and ordinances from 9th February, 1649 to 16th March, 1660 -- v. 3. Introduction, chronological table, and indices

IV. Foreign Office Papers

British and Foreign State Papers. London : H.M.S.O., 1828-c1977.
[Van Pelt Library Stacks: JX103 .A3], v.1 (1812/14)-v.170.

British Documents on Foreign Affairs: Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print. Bethesda, MD : University Publications of America, c1995-. Several series are available in reprint form.
Africa, 1848-1914, [Van Pelt Library Stacks: JX632 .B7685 1995] v.1-25
Africa, 1914-1939, [Van Pelt Library Stacks: JX632 .B769 1994]
Asia, 1860-1914, [Van Pelt Library Stacks: JX632 .B748 1989]
Asia, 1914-1939, [Van Pelt Library Stacks: JX632 .B767 1991]
Latin America, 1845-1914, [Van Pelt Library Stacks: JX632 .B747 1991]
Latin America, 1914-1939, [Van Pelt Library Stacks: JX632 .B766 1989]
The Near and Middle East, 1856-1914, [Van Pelt Library Stacks: JX632 .B745 1984]
Turkey, Iran, and the Middle East, 1918-1939, [Van Pelt Library Stacks: DS63.2.G7 B75 1985]

V. H. Majesty's Stationary Office (HMSO)

H.M.S.O. has the exclusive right to publish Parliamentary publications. It also publishes an enormous number of non-Parliamentary government publications, but by no means all. Therefore, it is necessary to be familiar with H.M.S.O's services and catalogs when working with British Government Publications.

Great Britain. H.M.S.O. Annual Catalog. 1922- . London: H.M.S.O.
[Van Pelt Library Reference: Z2009 .G882] Van Pelt receives only the Annual catalog. This catalog and its predecessors go back to 1922 and have various titles. Arrangement is by agency responsible for the publication but Parliament is listed first. Cumulative indexes cover five and ten year periods. The index gives subject terms and abbreviates the agency responsible for publication. References are to page numbers. Remember when using the cumulated indexes that the main volumes have continuous pagination for five or ten year periods. Parliamentary Papers are included and it is possible to use the catalog to verify command papers by subject or number. Subject lists of publications (called "sectional lists") are also available, free, from H.M.S.O. upon request.

Her Majesty's Stationary Office
Offers access to the full-text of Acts of the UK Parliament from 1988-2000, as well as local acts from 1991 to 2000. Also included are recent Acts and Statutory Instruments for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

UK Official Publications on the Internet
Full text or summary of selected documents prepared for the Internet by The Stationery Office. Search by date, title, or department. Other official documents are listed by category.

Non-H.M.S.O. Publications can be accessed through a database available on the Dialog system (file 228) which covers from 1980 to the present.

VI. Statistical Sources

National Statistics - the official UK Statistics site.

Great Britain. Central Statistical Office. Annual Abstract of Statistics. 1840/53- .
[Van Pelt Library: HA1122 .A33], with Latest in Reference.

Great Britain. Central Statistical Office. Regional Trends. 1965- . Annual
[Van Pelt Library: HA1122 .A336], with Latest in Reference.

Great Britain. Central Statistical Office. Social Trends. 1970- . Annual
[Van Pelt Library: HA1135 .S62], with Latest in Reference.

VII. Handbooks and Directories

Britain [year, e.g. 1989]: An Official Handbook. 1949/50- . Annual.
[Van Pelt Library: DA630 .A17], with Latest in Reference.
Mostly discursive description of current events and policies. Not meant to be analytical. Many statistical tables.

Great Britain. Cabinet Office. Civil Service Yearbook. 1974- . Annual.
[Van Pelt Library: JN106 .G732], with Latest in Reference.
Lists government departments with addresses and officers. Name index included.

Dod's Parliamentary Companion. 1867- . Annual.
[Van Pelt Libary: JN500 .D7], with Latest in Reference.
Penn has 1967-present. Primarily composed of brief biographies (with photographs) of members of Parliament, it also includes voting statistics, directory data for other offices of the government and list of terminology. For other biographical data on members of Parliament see: Who's Who of British Members of Parliament, 4 vols.; vol. 1:1832-1885; vol. 2: 1886-1918; vol. 3: 1919-1945; vol. 4: 1945-1979. [Van Pelt Library Reference Stacks: JN672 .W47 1976]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Year Book of the Commonwealth 1967- . Annual.
[Van Pelt Library Stacks: JN106 .G732], with Latest in Reference.
Supercedes: Colonial Office List, 1862-1967;
[Van Pelt Library Stacks: JV33 .G7 A2; Van Pelt has most years since 1890.
Country-by-country survey with lists of officials.

VIII. Other Reference Sources

Butler, David and Gareth Butler. British Political Facts 1900-1994. 7th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994. 541 pp.
[Van Pelt Library Reference: JN231 .B8 1994]

Cook, Chris and Brendan Keith. British Historical Facts: 1830-1900. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984. 279 pp.
[Van Pelt Library Reference: JN216 .C65 1984]

Forman, F.N. Mastering British Politics. London: Macmillan, 1985. 359 pp.
[Van Pelt Library: JN231 .F67 1985]
Introductory textbook with clear explanation of the British system.

Goehler, Robert U. and Fenton S. Martin. Parliament of Great Britain: A Bibliography. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1983. 209 pp.
[Van Pelt Library Reference: JN508 .G64 1983]

Great Britian. Public Record Office. Current Guide. Microfiche.
[Van Pelt Library Reference: CD 1043 A554 1996]

Wilding, Norman W. Encyclopaedia of Parliament. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1971. 931 pp.
[Van Pelt Library Reference: JN555 .W5 1971]