Introduction to the 18th Century Collection

Introduction to the Eighteenth Century Parliamentary Papers Collection 1688-1834

The Eighteenth Century Parliamentary Papers Collection was brought together and digitized by BOPCRIS (British Official Publications Collaborative Reader Information Service) from the major collections of parliamentary material at the University of Southampton, the British Library, and Cambridge University. The dates for the collection cover the period from the Glorious Revolution in 1688 to the destruction by fire of the Palace of Westminster in 1834. The collection has been made available via the Chadwyck-Healey HCPP interface allowing users to cross-search eighteenth- , nineteenth- , and twentieth-century parliamentary papers. As well as sessional papers from both the House of Commons and House of Lords, the Eighteenth Century collection also includes supplementary material: the Journals of the House of Commons and House of Lords; Private and Local Bills and Acts; debates (from the Parliamentary Register); and Histories and Proceedings of the House of Commons and House of Lords. Users can select whether to include any or all of these types of material in a search, or can search and browse specific individual collections.

House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century 1715-1800

Until the nineteenth century there was no systematic collection of sets of printed sessional papers. After becoming Speaker in 1802, Charles Abbot asked Luke Hansard to organize a compilation of eighteenth century papers. At least seven sets of what are known as the Abbot Collection were compiled, one of which was lost in the destruction of the Palace of Westminster in 1834. These consisted of thirty volumes of Bills (most from after 1750), twenty-eight volumes of Reports from Committees (most from after 1771), and fifty-two volumes of Accounts and Papers (most from after 1780). None of the sets are absolutely complete or identical to one another.

In 1975 Scholarly Resources Inc. published a reprint set of eighteenth century papers edited by Sheila Lambert. Lambert collated papers from all extant sets of the Abbot Collection, as well as other sources; however, she excluded papers printed in full in the Journals of the House of Commons. The Lambert volumes are the source of the digitized sessional papers in the Eighteenth Century Collection.

Reports from the Committees of the House of Commons 1715-1801

As well as the Abbot Collection, Luke Hansard compiled a separate fifteen-volume set of Reports of Committees not published in the Journal of the House of Commons, known as the First Series. The first four volumes were reprints of an older compilation made in 1773. Reports from the First Series were included by Sheila Lambert in her reprint set of House of Commons Sessional Papers, but the full volumes for this collection were also digitized separately for the Eighteenth Century Collection.

House of Lords Sessional Papers 1714-1805

This collection is digitized from the reprint set of House of Lords papers edited by F. W. Torrington and published by Oceana in 1972-1978. Torrington compiled the set based on the holdings of numerous archives and libraries in Europe and North America. As well as Bills, Reports of Committees, Reports of Commissioners, and Accounts and Papers, the Lords Sessional Papers also include Humble Addresses to and messages from the sovereign, papers communicated from the Commons, reports of the trials of peers, reports of the impeachment of officials, and reports of peerage claims.

Harper Collection of Private Bills 1695-1814

Private Bills are petitions to parliament to grant particular powers or benefits not permitted by general law. They are printed at the expense of the petitioner, rather than by Parliament, and are not classed as sessional papers. In the eighteenth century Private Bills dealt with matters such as the granting of divorces, the settlement of certain estates, and the construction of canals.

Robert Harper (1699?-1775) was a lawyer who became a parliamentary expert and drafted hundreds of private bills. After his death his sizeable library of private bills and related materials passed to his son, Samuel Harper (1732-1803), and was acquired for the British Museum, where he worked.

Local and Personal Acts 1797-1834

In order to avoid having to produce certified copies as evidence in court, a practice arose in the eighteenth century of adding a clause to private acts relating to the running of public utilities stating that these were to be treated as public acts. From 1797 these "public acts of a private character", also known as Road Acts, were numbered in their own sequence and issued as Local and Personal Acts.

Private Acts 1702-1727 and Private Bills 1727-1814

These volumes are the British Library's collection of Private Bills. See above under the Harper Collection for a definition of Private Bills. Although the set for 1702-1727 was bound up under the name of Private Acts, these are in fact Bills rather than Acts.

Private Acts 1815-1834

During the seventeenth century, Private Acts were numbered and listed, but not printed, with the exception of "public acts of a private character" (see Local and Personal Acts, above). From 1815, Private Acts were selectively printed.

Journals of the House of Commons 1688-1834

The Journals are accounts of the business of the House, recording the progress of legislation, papers received, motions submitted etc. They are the formal, corrected, archival record produced following the end of a session (unlike the Minutes of Proceedings produced at the end of each day's business).

They do not record speeches and debates, with the exception of the speech from the throne at the opening of parliament (actually made in the House of Lords but recorded in the journals of both houses). In the eighteenth century, important parliamentary papers such as treaties were often ordered to be printed in the journals, and these are to be found in this collection rather than in Lambert's sessional paper volumes. Retrospective printed versions of the journals based on the manuscript versions began to be issued in the mid-eighteenth century; early volumes cover multiple sessions. There are sessional indexes for most volumes as well as cumulative indexes covering decades or longer periods.

The journal volumes digitized in the Eighteenth Century Collection are from the Hartley Library at the University of Southampton. The volumes covering 1688-1797 were reprinted by order of the House of Commons in 1803. Subsequent volumes were printed by order of the House at the end of each session.

Journals of the House of Lords 1688-1834

The Journals of the House of Lords follow the same model as for those of the House of Commons, above. The volumes are from the Hartley Library, but give no information as to date, order or printer.

Parliamentary Register 1774-1780, 1780-1796, 1796-1802 and 1802-1805

The Parliamentary Register was a series of debates covering both the Commons and Lords, published by Almon (1774-1780), Almon and Debrett (1780-1796), Debrett (1796-1802) and Stockdale (1802-1805). Some of the speeches were supplied by their authors.

The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons 1660-1743

These volumes give an account of proceedings and debates and were printed by Chandler, based on an earlier collection of debates printed by J. Torbuck.

Although it principally contains transcriptions of debates, this collection is not searchable by date and is consequently not included in the Journals & Debates search.

The History and Proceedings of the House of Lords 1660-1742

These accounts of proceedings and debates in the Lords are largely based on reports from contemporary periodicals such as the Gentleman's Magazine.

Although it principally contains transcriptions of debates, this collection is not searchable by date and is consequently not included in the Journals and Debates search.