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British Sessional Papers

Sessional Papers are issued for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. They consist of various types of documents laid before each House.

House of Commons

The House of Commons Sessional Papers are perhaps the richest single source of primary documents covering British history and politics. They are also an invaluable source of information on the political, social and cultural life in Canada and other former colonies. The collection is packed with an array of reports, statistics, maps, drawings, treaties and bills.

Of particular note are the reports of Select Committees and Royal Commissions, bodies which are assembled to collect evidence and report on important political and social issues. These often voluminous documents, which deal with subjects as varied as cholera epidemics in London and the lives of Canada's aboriginal peoples in the 19th Century, provide detail and material unavailable elsewhere. Prior to the 20th Century, the actual testimony of those interviewed accompanied these reports, providing insight into the lives and opinions of people from all strata of society.

The sessional papers are also an ideal source for locating the text of bills at all stages of their progress through the House and treaties. All censuses taken prior to 1921 are also included.

All sessional papers published from 1715 to the present are available in this full text database. It also contains various other collections of parliamentary documents from as far back as 1688.

Earlier papers can sometimes also be found published within the Journals of the House of Commons.


House of Lords

The House of Lords Sessional Papers represent a much smaller set than that of the House of Commons, though the types of documents available in each set are quite similar. Papers have been printed since the 17th century, though it was not until 1801 that sets began to be regularly preserved and numbered. Until the 20th century a variety of House of Commons Papers, such as Command Papers, were duplicated in the House of Lords Sessional Papers. Now only reports of Joint Committees appear in both sets. The majority of Lords Sessional Papers of the 20th century consist of Bills and their amendments.

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