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Research Value

    As primary source materials, the parliamentary papers are unsurpassed. They illustrate the issues of the day, government policy and contemporary thought. The content stretches from domestic concerns to foreign relations, from statistics to fiery speeches. Recording British history from the Middle Ages to the electronic era, these records also touch on the vast expanse of the British empire and diplomatic relations with all the major world powers. Best of all, nearly all the records are in English.


    Accounts and Papers - Miscellaneous category of sessional papers which includes treaties and international agreements, financial and statistical reports.
    Bills- Public legislation placed before the Parliament. Private bills relating to personal affairs, such as divorce, are not part of the sessional papers.
    Command Papers- A category of sessional papers that do not originate in Parliament, but are presented to it, "by command of His or Her Majesty".
    Debates- Record of what is said in Parliament. Often called Hansards after the first publisher.
    Diaries - Personal narratives of parliamentary speeches and proceedings
    Journals - Official account of the proceedings of Parliament. 
    Parliamentary Papers - Loosely refers to all the records of Parliament, or more specifically to only the sessional papers
    Reports of Royal Commissions- A category of sessional papers which presents the findings of research or investigations.
    Rolls of Parliament - Earliest records of parliament, up to the sixteenth century
    Select Committeess - The main investigative body of the Parliament until the mid-nineteenth century.
    Sessional Papers- Working papers of Parliament, including the bills, reports, and papers.
    Votes and Proceedings - Compiled from the minute books kept by the Clerk of the House. 

Helpful Hints

    As the historical record of Parliament's proceedings, journals contain the following kinds of information:
      motions passed, amended, withdrawn
      committee memberships
      lists of papers
    Prior to the nineteenth century, journals were particularly important because no "official" records exist.
  • Votes and Proceedings

    Most of this material is later reprinted in the Journals, Sessional Papers, or Debates.
    Record of parliamentary speeches. The early 'debates' are simply reports and summaries of the daily speeches. Verbatim records were not kept until 1909.
    Include the following categories of documents:
      1. Public Bills
      2. Reports of Committees of Parliament 
      3. Reports of Royal Commissions or Select Committees
      4. Accounts and Papers
    These working papers of Parliament are also called parliamentary papers. The reports contain reports of the House committees, select committees and Royal Commissions doing research work for Parliament. Select committees have been the main investigative body for the Parliament. However, during the nineteenth century, Royal Commissions and Departmental Committees increasingly took over this function and their reports are often issued as Command Papers, which are included in the parliamentary papers. Not all departmental reports or papers are considered as such. And finally, one can often find treaties, international agreements, and more.




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