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As you continue on with your research you will come upon many new types of documents. Take note of where they are located, how they are placed in the larger organization of the Papers as a whole, and what kinds of information they provide you with. These connections, closely linked with the actual operation of the Parliamentary process, will eventually illuminate the logic of their organization and make hunting for specific bits of information more intuitive than it is in the beginning.

Indexes for the parliamentary papers

Here we will take a look through an index for exactly one-hundred years of Parliamentary business.

Peter Cockton's index for the nineteenth-century consists of five volumes and can give you a good idea about how the papers will be categorized.
Let's take a look through the table of contents and some of the groupings the papers are classified under.
We begin with the Constitution itself,
then we move into its legislative application in the Parliament,
a little further we find documents having to do with the central-most government issues,
moving outward to those of the distant periphery.
Every entry is uniformly categorized so that you can easily move from it to the actual document containing the information you seek. The Papers themselves are arranged chronologically in the collection, as we will see when we begin searching the documents themselves. The organization by subject we find here is simply a convienience meant to make locating a paper in the collection as easy as possible. Take careful note of all of the information listed for each entry that you find an interest in, every number and letter plays an important role in the specific location of the item you seek in the vast collection of documents.

Fondren's electronic index for the house of commons papers

To access the electronic searchable index for the Parliamentary Papers you must use a CD-ROM; at Fondren Library, it is available at the reference desk.Once you have it loaded on the screen it should look like this. Since we are trying to establish the political context around "The Egyptian Red Book" and one of its chief characters, General Gordon, we have entered the word "Gordon" into the keyword box to get us started.

Notice that you also have a number of additional search options. Once you become more familiar with the different types of papers and information they contain you will be able to more fully utilize these options. Here we will be performing a very basic keyword search.
Everything is sorted by date, as you can see. If we scroll down to the dates that pertain to the Egyptian Red Book, the 1880's, then we find some interesting options having to do with General Gordon. Select the first to view a full entry.
Here we find a Command Paper with an estimate for how much it will cost HM (his majesty) to save General Gordon, information that the authors would have loved to have come across to be sure.
Here we have a dispatch from the Consul-Gen of Egypt with instructions for General Gordon.
And finally we have the text of an actual proclamation from General Gordon to the inhabitants of the Sudan.

Notice the many identifiers for each entry to the right of the information. With this information in hand we will be able to locate a page from history in the many millions in the collection at Fondren with very little trouble at all. Let's locate the three we have so far.

Locating a document from the parliamentary papers on microform at fondren

For a brief review of using the Microform resources please visit our Microform module . Otherwise, let's begin with our first document.

Remember, the Parliamentary Papers for the nineteenth-century are listed under the call number J301.K539
Scanning the folders in the file which are sorted by date and volume number we quickly find what we are looking for.
Notice that at the top of the card all of the information listed in the printed and computer file index appears. This is how the Papers are organized and stored. Observing the millions of images in the thousands of files we can be thankful that they are. Let's pull one up and take a look. Once you have the Microfiche loaded into the machine, if you need a review of how to do this, click here
You will notice that the corresponding page number at the bottom left of the page, here 318. Now glance to the top of the page.
You will notice our title, "Relief of General Gordon." Finally, we see in the middle of the page the information we seek.
Using the same steps we can locate our second document on page 359 of Microfiche number 90.753, Gordon's proclamation to the inhabitants of the Sudan.
The page numbers used to describe the location of the information you are looking for appear at different locations on the page. They are at times printed and at others hand written elsewhere on the page. It is always important to look to the surrounding pages to orient yourself to the particular organization of the documents you are looking at at the moment. Remember, these documents have been collected over hundreds of years by as many individuals. They are organized enough that we might learn how to search through them, but no such system can be expected to be perfect. Always record every piece of information you are offered concerning the location of a document in the Papers; you will probably need it.

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Source:  OpenStax, Conducting research with the british parliamentary papers. OpenStax CNX. Jun 12, 2006 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10289/1.3
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