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British Sessional Papers and Parliamentary Debates: Information on Finding and
Using Sessional Papers

A finding guide for British Parliamentary papers and debates held in Olin Library or accessible online. Click on the TABS to access each section.

Information on Finding and Using the Printed Sessional Papers


Papers for 1715-1800 (House of Commons) and 1714-1805 (House of Lords) are cataloged and available in double oversize (++) print sets edited by Lambert and Torrington respectively. Papers for 1847-1848 through 1979-80 are also in bound volumes (on the B Level labelled GBCP). Some years after 1847 in the 19th century are incomplete. The Readex microprint set is shelved on the Olin Library B Level, and covers the House of Commons only 1731-1800 and 1801-1900 in two segments (set uncataloged). Ask Library staff for assistance in retrieving these. A microfiche set covers 1980 to the present (Microfiche 454 - Olin Library B Level).
Finding papers in the volumes:
Use cumulative numerical lists: Numerical Finding List of British Command Papers Published 1833-1961/62. (Olin Ref Z 2009 .D53 +) and British Command Papers: A Numerical Finding List, 1962/63-1976/77. (Olin Ref Z 2009 .D53 Suppl.)
Or use sessional indexes: The last volume of each session contains a numerical list of first the bills, then the accounts and papers, and finally the command papers for the session. Each entry lists the volume number and page number for the bill, report, or paper wanted within that sessional set of volumes. Use the volume number to find the correct volume. Then use the table of contents at the beginning of each physical volume to find the paper wanted. Ignore the page number. Note that the sessional indexes are shelved at the very end of all the GBCP volumes. The numerical lists are followed by a broad subject index.
Volumes cover a session of Commons which may be for a single calendar year only, or may run across two years (except a single cumulation of 1914-1916). The volumes will then be labelled accordingly, e.g.,1928 (50 vols.) 1928-1929 (51 vols.)
Volume number:
The Roman numeral is the key number for location and appears on the spine of each volume. It is found in most of the cumulative indexes in the Reference reading room and in all of the sessional indexes (B Level, G.B.C.P.). Note: The Roman numeral sometimes is in lower case type and therefore inconspicuous. The Arabic numeral following the volume number is not useful for the printed Papers since it represents pagination in a bound set in the Parliament Library. Cornell's print set consists of individually published documents bound together. Page numbers are needed for the microprint set.
lxvi 293 = Volume lxvi of the cited session. Forget p.293.
Volume labels:
Spine labels vary over time. Many volumes have a label at the top of the spine reading:
G.B.C.P. 1902: 46 = Volume LXVI of the 1902 session.
G.B.C.P. = Great Britain Command Papers
Older volumes lack these labels. The session date is on the bottom of the spine and the roman volume numeral is just below midspine.

Colored spine labels were sometimes used to differentiate subseries within the sessional papers; sometimes for alternating sessions.
Subseries are:
Bills: Public
Reports: Committees
Reports: Commissioners
Accounts and Papers [Command Papers are located in this subseries]
Command Papers Numbering:
Command papers are numbered and prefixed with an abbreviation of 'command' which has changed over time to allow for new sequences, as follows:
C. 1870-1899
Cd. 1900-1918
Cmd. 1919-1956
Cmnd. 1956-1986
Cm. 1986-

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Michael Engle
106 Olin Library
Cornell University Library

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