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Q&A: Finding Parliamentary Papers and Reports at Stanford

Question: How can I find particular reports and documents done by and for the British Parliament in the 19th Century? I notice that you only have the 20th Century Parliamentary Papers shelved in British Documents in Green Library.

Answer: For the 19th Century, we currently depend on micofiche for the British Parliamentary or "Sessional" Papers. These are housed in the Jonsson Library of Government Documents, Green Library, Bing Wing, West 2, Cabinets 31 through 35, just to the left, inside the door of Jonsson Library. They have the classification of MFICHE 446. The indexing for these is, first, the CD-ROM housed in the Information Center, Green Library, East Wing:

-Index to the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, 1800-current, CD-ROM Station No. 2.

This allows easy keyword searching, and gives the microfiche file numbers for the MFICHE 446.

There is a print version of the index, housed in SSRC, Green Library, Bing Wing, 1st floor:

-Parliamentary Papers, Guide to the Microfiche Edition: Z2019.C62 Green Library SSRC.
-Subject Catalogue to the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, 1801-1900: Z2019.C63 Vol. 1-5 Green Library SSRC.

These are organized by large subject category, so are not as flexible as the CD-ROM index listed above.

Other indexes, which are useful if one needs to pin down an obscure citation [All housed in SSRC, Green Library, Bing Wing]:

-General Index to the Accounts and Papers, Reports of Commissioners, Estimates, etc. House of Commons [later called the General Alphabetical Index], 1801-1969: Z2009.A42 Green Library SSRC.
[This is the ‘official’ subject index to the Parliamentary Papers for these dates.]

-Hansard's Catalogue and Breviate of Parliamentary Papers, 1696-1834: Z2009.G858 1953f Green Library SSRC.
[First ‘official’ subject list for the Parliamentary Papers]

-Parliamentary Papers, 1801-1900: Z2009.K56 1904 Green Library SSRC.
[Very good subject index]

Here is some general background for dealing with citations to various papers and publications of the British Parliamentary collection here at Stanford:

If a citation uses language such as: Command Paper, or Sessional Paper, or Parliamentary Paper, or Report to Parliament, or any variation on these words, we PROBABLY have that item, either in paper or microform, embedded somewhere in one of our Parliamentary or Sessional Papers collections.

For most practical purposes, ‘Sessional’ or ‘Command’ or ‘Parliamentary’ mean the same thing when applied to British governmental reports and documents used by Parliament. Think of the Parliamentary Papers as the Serial Set of the British government. In the interests of truth and precision, however, here is an official set of definitions, courtesy of a former British Documents Librarian:

Parliamentary Papers: In the broad sense, the term covers 3 groups of materials: 1. Journals, Debates, and Votes & Proceedings. 2. Bills, Reports and Papers (the working documents of parliament). 3. Acts of Parliament. More narrowly, the term is often used for the second of these groups, which may more properly be termed Sessional Papers. Sessional Papers: The Bills, Reports and Papers generated by or presented in the House of Commons or the House of Lords during a parliamentary session and constituting the working papers of parliament. The Papers for each session are then arranged in a subject sequence and provided with an index. Command Papers: A document presented to parliament, theoretically by command of the sovereign, but in fact by the Secretary of State or other minister of the government. They are generally limited to reports on the work of government departments, policy matters likely to be the subject of future legislation, and treaty documents. So far, the Command Papers have had 5 series: 1st, 1833-1869 [not numbered]. 2nd, 1870-1899, with C. numbers. 3rd, 1900-1918, with Cd. numbers. 4th, 1919-1956, with Cmd numbers. 5th, 1956 to the present, with Cmnd numbers.

In using the collection at Stanford, what is termed
"Parliamentary Papers" is composed of the Sessional and Command Papers, as defined above. The "Debates" are a separate set of volumes, shelved in British Documents after the Parliamentary Papers.

Another important set, by way of backgroud:

History of Parliament: The Commons [various dates]: JN672 etc. thru JN763 etc., a work still in progress, but the best scholarly overview of the House of Commons from the 14th Century to the early 19th Century [ultimately, 1386 to 1832]. A complete set is housed in the Lane Room, Green Library, HASRC, with other copies of many volumes in SSRC and Green Stacks.

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