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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. Compilation of Presidential Documents (GPO) since 1993

Presidential debates Other
Congressional Committee Hearings
They contain the testimony of government officials and private individuals invited to appear before Congressional committees to provide information and argue for or against passage of a bill. They cover all aspects of domestic and foreign policy.

Restricted to OU students, faculty, and staff Congressional House and Senate Unpublished Hearings
Full-text access to unpublished hearings held by Congress: House hearings (973-1982) and Senate hearings (1985-1992).

Other sources:
  • prior to 1875: online in the US Congressional Documents and Debates
  • since 1997: online at FDsys - Selected hearings, primarily 105th Congress (1997)-present, with some earlier hearings back to 1985
  • in KL's government document library (since 1900)
    To search for hearings in OneSearch, enter your keywords and the word "hearing". In the results list, select "Documents" from the Library Location option.
  • the Hathi Trust and the Internet Archive contain a lot of digitized hearings
See also How to Locate an Unpublished Congressional Hearing
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:
Other Congressional materials
Congressional Reports
  • originate from congressional committees and deal with proposed legislation and issues of interest
  • online at FDsys for post 1995 reports
  • online at Archive It  since 2008
Congressional Documents
  • can include reports of executive departments and agencies, as well as committee prints
  • online at FDsys since 1995, with some for 1875-1994 as well.
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

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 "documents" or "government documents"
Historical statistics
American Factfinder
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. To be replaced by govinfo, currently in beta.

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)
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Library Contact
Picture: Dominique Daniel

Dominique Daniel
Humanities Librarian for History and Modern Languages

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