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Parliamentary Papers at MU: Command Papers

Tips, techniques & links to help you find answers for your research papers & projects

Command Papers

Command Papers
These papers are called Command Papers because they are presented to Parliament by "royal command" rather than as a result of an Act of Parliament. Each sessional paper bears a number, printed in the lower left hand corner of the title page. All papers except Command Papers begin a new series of numbers each session. Command Papers include:

Types of Command Papers:

State Papers:  Largest group of Command Papers.  Their origin are from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and include treaties and Committees of Inquiry.  Most also have internal Numbers, such as "Treaty Series No. 82."

Policy Papers (White Papers):  Statements of government policy. 

Annual Reports:  Relatively small group of papers that address annual budgets of government departments.  Some are published as House of Common Papers instead of Command.  This group of papers are dwindling as many departments no longer produce them.

Reports of Royal Commissions (Blue Book):  Reports created by Royal Commission, which are appointed by the sovereign, that are addressed to the sovereign.  While the commission findings are presented as Command Papers, they are often accompanied by research papers containing evidence that are published as Non-Parliamentary Papers.

Reports of Departmental Committees (Blue Book): These reports are actually delivered to the Minister (or his/her successor) that appointed the committee.  These can be published as either Command or Non-Parliamentary Papers, pending on if the minister had them published (Command) or the committee itself (Non-Parliamentary).

Reports of Tribunals, Commissions of Inquiry, Other Commissions, and Non-Parliamentary Bodies:  Contains reports created when investigating matters of public concern, such as national security breaches.

Statistical Reports/Annual Reports:  Most of these reports were published before World War I and they have pretty much been eliminated since World War II, with a few exceptions. These can be any reports based solely on statistics.

The Estimates:  These are presented by command, but ordered by the House of Commons to be printed.  Thus they appear as House of Commons Papers in the collection.

Green Papers:  Tentative government proposals created to encourage discussion.  May or may not lead to government action.

Northern Ireland Command Papers:  Published as a separate series from 1921 to 1975 as Cmnd 1-588.

Locating Command Papers:

Command Papers numbering is continuous over several years with prefixes C., Cd., Cmd., Cmnd., or Cm. The numbering reflects the different time periods of the series.

Series Numbering   Dates
1st Series      1-4222 1833-1869     
2nd Series C. 1-9550 1870-1899
3rd Series Cd. 1-9239 1900-1918
4th Series Cmd. 1-9889 1919-1956
5th Series Cmnd. 1-9227 1956-1986
6th Series Cm. 1- 1986-present

 

 

When the Command Paper number is known, use A Numerical Finding List of British Command Papers Published 1833-1961/2 to locate the session, volume number and page number.

In the 18th Century, Command Papers were included as appendices in the House of Commons JournalThis practice continued until 1833, the year the number series start.

Command Papers at Ellis Library:

House of Commons Papers.  Cmnd. Covers 1979/1980-2006-2007.  Call Number: 328.42.  Located in MU Ellis Special Collections.

Searching for Command Papers:

  1. General Indexes to the Bills, Reports, and Papers Printed by Order of the House of Commons and to the Reports and Papers Presented by Command
    1. Multiple volumes covering 1801-1949.
    2. Call Number: 328.42 G79a Index (followed by year ranges).  Located in Ellis 3 West.
  2. A General Index to the Sessional Papers Printed by the Order of the House of Lords or Presented by Special Command
    1. Call Number: J301.J6 Index 1801-1859a.  Request from UM Libraries Depository (UMLD).
  3. Search MERLIN Catalog for "British Command Paper" or "Parliament Command Paper."
  4. Search the TSO Archive for command papers from 1994-2005 or TSO Officefrom 2005-present.

    Citing Command Papers:

    Sample Citations: 

    Asian Bank Development.  Treaty Series No. 82 (1970).  Cmnd. 4466 (Title, Series for State Papers only, Command number).

    Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government in England 1966-1969.  Cmnd. 4040, 4040-I, 4040-II.  (Title, Command Numbers for all three volumes).

    Other Facts:

    Command Papers prior to 1921 averaged about 600 per year.  Then they fell to about 250 presented before climbing back up to 300-400 per year.