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U.S. Government Documents: Legislative Histories

Created by Fred Muratori

Legislative Histories

A legislative history chronicles the development of a public law from its introduction as a bill (or as multiple bills) to its enactment. It usually cites such publications as House/Senate reports, hearings, the Congressional Record, and presidential remarks. Depending on the scope of the legislation, it can be lengthy or relatively brief. In locating a legislative history, it's very helpful to know the Public Law or Statute number of the law in question.

*Note:
While ProQuest Legislative Insight and ProQuest Congressional are the best online sources for legislative histories, some for laws passed before 1969 can be difficult to find. Most public laws contain a much-abbreviated legislative history on their final page. A number of pre-1969 legislative histories were published as Committee prints, and can be located in ProQuest Congressional by entering the phrase "legislative history" as a title, limiting publication type to Committee Prints and dates to "Prior to 1970."

Some legislative histories have been published as independent monographs. See the Print section below for finding aid.

Online:

1835 (24th Congress) - present ProQuest Legislative Insight Includes over 18,000 thoroughly researched legislative histories, including the full text of the enacted public law, all versions of related bills, and related Congressional Record excerpts, committee hearings, committee reports, committee prints, Presidential signing statements, and miscellaneous congressional publications. The collection has legislative histories of all laws enacted since 1970 and many important laws enacted since 1789, with a total of over 27,000 legislative histories available by the end of 2013.
1999 (106th Congress) - present ProQuest Congressional full legislative histories of all public laws
1984 (98th Congress) - 1998 (105th Congress) ProQuest Congressional full legislative histories of major public laws; ceremonial and housekeeping laws excluded
1969 (91st Congress) - 1983 (97th Congress) ProQuest Congressional abbreviated legislative histories of major public laws

 

Print:

1789 (1st Congress) - 1986 (99th Congress) Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories OLIN REF KF 42.2 1979+ a bibliography of published legislative histories, arranged chronologically by P.L. number; indexed
1969 (91st Congress) - 1983 (97th Congress) CIS Annual OLIN REF Z1223 A2 C74+ abbreviated legislative histories of major public laws (in Abstracts volume)
1984 (98th Congress) - 1998 (105th Congress) CIS Annual OLIN REF Z1223 A2 C74+ full legislative histories of major public laws; ceremonial and housekeeping laws excluded (Legislative Histories volume)
1999 (106th Congress) - date CIS Annual Index OLIN REF Z1223 A2 C74+ full legislative histories of major public laws (Legislative Histories volume)