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Legal History Research: Parliamentary Papers

Resources for researching Australian legal history

Houses of Parliament, London

Source: Wikipedia

Parliament House, Canberra

UK Parliamentary Papers

British State Papers

The term 'state papers' refers to government archives and records.

The state papers domestic are the accumulated papers of the secretaries of state relating to home affairs. They contain information on every facet of early modern government, including social and economic affairs, law and order, religious policy, crown possessions and intelligence gathering as well as some references to foreign policy. They can also include private and official letters, musters, reports, commissions and instructions, council orders and correspondence, memoranda and draft parliamentary bills.

Source: National Archives research guide

The state papers foreign are documents produced or received by the secretaries of state in the conduct of their work. They can include correspondence with English diplomats abroad and foreign diplomats in England, original and draft treaties, working papers of the secretaries, records of early Cabinet meetings.

See the guides from the National Archives for more information.

State papers are accessible through State Papers Online (UniMelb access).

Proceedings and Journals

The Journals are the formal record of proceedings in both Houses of Parliament.

The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England are the general proceedings of Parliament in medieval times (1272-1504) (access through PROME (UniMelb access)) .

House of Lords Journals are accessible through British History Online (1509-1793 & 1832-1834) and House of Commons Parliamentary Papers (1688-1834) (UniMelb access).

House of Commons Journals are accessible through British History Online (1547-1699 & 1830) and UK Parliament (1835-2010) and House of Commons Parliamentary Papers (1688-1834) (UniMelb access).

Other resources

The Henry III Fine Rolls Project has made these fine rolls easily accessible. A fine in the reign of King Henry III (1216–1272) was an agreement to pay the king a sum of money for a specified concession. The rolls on which the fines were recorded provide the earliest systematic evidence of what people and institutions across society wanted from the king and he was prepared to give. The rolls record the purchase of an ever growing number of writs, from wide sections of society, to initiate and prosecute law cases, and are thus central to the study of the early common law.

House of Commons and House of Lords sessional papers (reports or papers which have been tabled in Parliament) (1715-2005) are accessible through House of Commons Parliamentary Papers (UniMelb access).

Diplomatic and consular reports (also known as Commercial Reports) are accessible through House of Commons Parliamentary Papers (UniMelb access).

Peter Cockton's Subject Catalogue of the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers 1801-1900 is accessible through House of Commons Parliamentary Papers (UniMelb access).

Australian Parliamentary Papers

Parliamentary Papers

Parliamentary Papers are documents that are presented to the Houses of Parliament and are ordered by one or both of the Houses to be printed. They include reports from government departments, Royal Commissions, committees of enquiry and other documents. Documents that are presented to Parliament but not ordered to be printed do not become Parliamentary Papers, and access to them is only available from the Parliament itself. Parliamentary Papers are published by the Commonwealth and most State and Territory governments. Various indexes to collections are available.

Source: GovPubs


Senate Tabled Papers are accessible from Senate Tabled Papers (1901 - current).

New South Wales

Information about New South Wales parliamentary papers is available through the State Library of New South Wales' guide to New South Wales government documents.

The First Legislative Council Archive contains documents from 1824 - 1855 and includes tabled papers, Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reports of debates and documents relating to the administration of the First Council.


Index to Parliamentary Papers (1918 - current). Select 'Parliamentary Papers Index' from drop-down box.


Parliamentary papers from 1851 are accessible through the Victorian Parliament website.

Index to Victorian Parliamentary Papers is available in the University Library collection.

Proceedings and Journals

Votes and proceedings record what is actually done in the Lower House of a Parliament. They are the official record of what business was transacted (similar to the minutes of a meeting), they do not indicate what was said (see Hansard on the Legislation tab).

In the Upper Houses the record of business is called Journals or sometimes Minutes of the proceedings.

Source: GovPubs

New South Wales

New South Wales Votes and Proceedings and Minutes of Proceedings are the minutes of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. Information about accessing these documents is available through the State Library of New South Wales' guide to New South Wales government publications.

South Australia

Minutes of Proceedings of Legislative Council 1996 - current (South Australia Parliament)

Other resources

GovPubs: the Australian Government Publications Guide is a guide to selected types of Australian government publications, such as Acts, Hansards, Gazettes and Parliamentary Papers, located in Australia's National, State and Territory libraries or available on the Internet. A historical description of each publication and holdings information is provided, although the database is no longer updated.