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British Parliamentary Papers


The British Parliamentary Papers are a complex and important source for the history of Britain and the world. Princeton University Library holds original printed volumes and microform editions that fill in the gaps of the printed volumes. We also have access to the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers in a digital edition. And there are many guides and indexes that can help the researcher navigate the Parliamentary Papers and find material on a specific topic. But please ask for help if you have trouble finding what you need; the Parliamentary Papers are notoriously confusing, especially to the inexperienced researcher.

For general background, see History of Parliament Online, which reproduces and supplements the printed series of the same name.

This guide does not cover the records of Parliament in the medieval period, for which see the guide to Medieval & Early Modern Britain (to 1800).

The Parliamentary papers are comprised of:

  • Journals-- the record of what was done in Parliament
  • Debates -- the record of what was said in Parliament
  • Papers -- the documents and reports requested, presented to or produced by Parliament (also known as Sessional Papers, Command Papers, and Blue Books; includes Bills)
  • Acts and Statutes -- legislation passed by Parliament, which must receive Royal Assent to become law. See Legal research for historians: British

For most research, your starting point will be the UK Parliamentary Papers. Coverage is 1688 to present; new material is being added routinely. For current material, see Parliament's web site at

Need to know more?

The most lucid guide to Parliamentary papers is that of:
Ford, P. (Percy) and Ford, G. (Grace). A guide to parliamentary papers: what they are, how to find them, how to use them. 3d ed. Shannon: Irish University Press, 1972. History Reference (SH): J301 .M5 1972

Also useful is:
Bond, Maurice Francis. Guide to the records of Parliament. London, H. M. Stationery Off., 1971. History Reference (SH): CD1063 .B63 1971