National Library of Scotland opens up access to unique political papers
Official papers that provide unprecedented insight into Britain's 19th-century political history are to be made available online in a project led by the National Library of Scotland and the global technology company ProQuest.
The Library's collection of 19th-century House of Lords papers is one of the very few surviving copies. They are made up of some 3,000 historic volumes, some of which are in a fragile state. The project will digitise every page and help to protect the original papers, while making the content widely available.
When the project is complete later in the year, it will provide the Library's registered users in Scotland with free online access to a wealth of valuable and little seen parliamentary documents. Until now they have only been available to researchers visiting the Library in Edinburgh. The content will be provided to other libraries through commercial arrangements with ProQuest.
Dr John Scally, Scotland's National Librarian, said: 'More British Prime Ministers served in the Lords in the 19th century than in the House of Commons, despite the progressive dwindling of the influence of the upper chamber. This is a fascinating period in our history, and digitisation will make these important papers available to our users on any screen, anytime, anywhere. This partnership with ProQuest and the House of Lords Library is part of our commitment to open up our collections to as many people as possible.'
As the working documents of government, the House of Lords parliamentary papers encompass wide areas of social, political, economic and foreign policy, providing evidence of committees and commissions during a time when the Lords in the United Kingdom wielded considerable power. Most importantly from a legislative perspective, the collection includes many bills which originated and were subsequently rejected by the Lords — rich indicators of the direction and interests of the Lords that have been largely lost to researchers.
The final version of a bill passing from Commons to the Lords will also be included in the newly digitised papers. The collection will shed new light on edits and revisions taken by the Lords on these key bills in their last stages of the legislative process and will provide a full study and understanding of this activity. The papers will fill in the gap in how legislation was written, amended, and passed.
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14 May 2015