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This module introduces the British Parliament and discusses how its papers can be a valuable resource for research projects.

PalaceOfWestminsterAtNight Photograph©Andrew Dunn, 29 September 2004.


The British Parliament is the legislative body of Government in the United Kingdom. It is an institution ofgovernment that can trace its roots back to the thirteenth century and beyond. Being a body of appointed and elected representativesof the British constituency, the Parliament itself can be seen as the institutional bridge between Medieval monocracy and moderndemocracy in Europe.

Here we will provide a brief introduction to Parliament and a guide to researching the records of its operationin the Parliamentary Papers. The Parliamentary Papers hold the documentation of detailed investigations performed by committees ofexperts, heated debates between the heads of state, and the legislative paths of governmental policies all responding tohistorical events in the UK and around the world for over five-hundred years. Thus the Parliamentary Papers can be an invaluable research source for projects investigating not only the history of Great Britain, but also of any country with which Englad had significant relations.

Taking a moment to learn a bit about what Parliament is and how it works will be extremely helpful throughoutyour research in the Parliamentary Papers. The following is a brief introduction to the workings of Parliament with links to morethorough explanations from the UK Parliament website . At any time during your research, if you should fine a term or concept that need further explanation,the UK Parliament website has thorough descriptions of what Parliament is and what Parliament does as well as an extensive glossary of related terms .

What is parliament?

The word parliament is derived from the English pronunciation (par-ley) of the French verb parler , meaning to speak. A parlement , in French, is a discussion, especially between enemies concerning the terms of resolving adispute. The Oxford English Dictionary provides a detailed examination of the etymology of the word Parliament .

The first English Parliament was formed during the reign of King Henry III in the thirteenth- century. Click here for adetailed account of the History of Parliament . In the United Kingdom, Parliament is a three tiered legislative system, composed of the House of Commons , the House of Lords , and the Monarch. It is the institution that introduces bills and passes them intolaws in the UK.

House of commons

The House of Commons is directly elected by British citizens. The political party that wins the most seats in an election forms the government, and the leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister. This House is responsible for introducing legislation that is then voted on and sent for approval to the House of Lords. Click here to have a look into the Chamber House of Commons .

House of lords

The House of Lords is a body of appointed representatives. This House is responsible for reviewing the Bills presented to it by the House of Commons before presenting them to the Monarch for official ratification. Have a look into the Chamber of the House of Lords .

Questions & Answers

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nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
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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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