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LIBRARY GUIDE TO Government documents for historians

Presidents' Papers
Public Papers of the President
President's public messages, statements, speeches, and news conference remarks. Presidential election debates Other
Congressional Debates and Proceedings
Congressional Record (1873-present)
Daily publication of the speeches on the floor of the House and Senate. Organized in four parts: 
  • House of Representatives
  • Senate
  • Extensions of Remarks (includes text that was not part of floor activity, but was inserted later)
  • Daily Digest (summary of all Congressional activity for that day.)
In addition to the daily edition, a bound edition is produced following each session of Congress.

The bound edition (1873-2009) is available on the govinfo site.

Prior to 1873, Congressional debates were published in The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States (also known as the Annals of Congress, 1789-1824), The Register of Debates in Congress (1824-1837), and The Congressional Globe (1833-1873). Those are summaries, rather than verbatim transcripts.

Other access:
  • prior to 1873: full text online at the Century of Lawmaking site (Library of Congress)
  • 1833-1973: KL microfilm, room 143 KL
  • 1873-1929: KL microfilm, room 143 KL
  • 1929-1993: print,  room 154 KL, call number X (a subject index is available)
  • current: online at govinfo
Other Congressional materials
Congressional Reports
  • originate from congressional committees and deal with proposed legislation and issues of interest
  • online at Govinfo
Congressional Documents
  • can include reports of executive departments and agencies, as well as committee prints
  • online at Govinfo
Congressional Research Service reports
  • created by experts, the reports present a legislative perspective on topics such as agriculture policy, counterterrorism operations, banking regulation, veterans’ issues, and much more
  • online at CRS Reports
  • online at Archive It  since 2008

Restricted to OU students, faculty, and staff Legislative Insight
A federal legislative history service that makes available professionally researched compilations of digital full-text congressional publications relevant to enacted U.S. public laws.
Foreign policy information
Foreign Relations of the United States
Compilation of all foreign policy decisions and diplomatic activity. For earlier periods (1861-1960), see also the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections. Available in print at KL, room 154  (S1.1 call number)

American State Papers
Congressional documents for 1789-1838

National Security Archive
Declassified records on issues including U.S. national security, foreign policy, diplomatic and military history, intelligence policy, etc.

Other sources
How to find gov. docs at KL
  1. Search Library OneSearch
  2. Limit results to "government documents"
Historical statistics
Census Data
Information from the 2010 Census of Population, the annual American Community Survey, and other useful economic and geographic data.

Selected historical census data (U.S. Census)

Social Explorer
Data from the U.S. Census and other sources, in table or map forms. Only some of the data available for free.

Statistical Abstract of the United States (Proquest)
Historical statistical abstracts available for 1878-1969
Major sources for government documents
Online access to publications of all 3 branches of the Federal Government.

Catalog of U.S. Government Publications 
the largest catalog of federal government publications. Links are included for items available online.

U.S. government's official web portal

Hathi Trust and the Internet Archive contain numerous digitized government documents.
For more information
U.S. Congressional Serial Set: What It Is and Its History
(Congressional reports, documents and journals)
PDF version of this guide
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Dominique Daniel
Humanities Librarian for History and Modern Languages

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