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Federal Legislative History: Compiled Legislative Histories

Compiled legislative histories save researchers the trouble of having to discover and track down individual documents related to a particular law, which otherwise can be scattered across many sources.  Compiled histories assemble and publish the legislative materials related to the law in a single place.

With federal legislation in particular, electronic access to full text legislative documents is becoming easier.  The best places to start are the ProQuest legislative databases and HeinOnline. 

Research Options

Compiled legislative histories assemble and publish the legislative materials related to a particular law in a single place.   Compiled legislative histories can be identified in legislative history bibliographies and accessed through ProQuest Legislative Insight, HeinOnline, Lexis, Westlaw, bibliographies and subject treatises.  The place to begin your search for complied legislative histories is ProQuest Legislative Insight.

ProQuest Legislative Insight

ProQuest Legislative Insight:  Includes a collection of more than 18,000 individually researched legislative histories from 1929 to present.  Legislative Insight is accessible via the law library landing page.

HeinOnline, Lexis and Westlaw

HeinOnline (U.S. Federal Legislative History Library): Includes a collection of more than 80 full-text compiled legislative histories and the Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories title.

Lexis: Select legislative histories available in individual databases.

Westlaw:  FED-LH database contains legislative histories of most public laws enacted from 1921 to 1995 as compiled by the Government Accountability Office (GAO); Arnold and Porter collection database contains select legislative histories from 1974  to present as prepared by the Washington, D.C. law firm of the same name (access this collection by searching the Directory for Arnold & Porter). 

Bibliographies (Print)

Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories: A Bibliography of Government Documents, Periodical Articles, and Books (KF42.2.S68; also available on HeinOnline).  Lists print and online sources for compiled legislative histories (and lists of citations) found in books, articles and government documents.

Federal Legislative Histories:  An Annotated Bibliography (KF42.2.R42): Cites to legislative histories gathered by the federal government. 

Union List of Legislative Histories (KF 42.2. U61):  Lists several thousand compiled legislative histories from the collections of more than 120 libraries in Washington, D.C. (from the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.).

Bibliographies (Online)

Commercial Legislative Histories of U.S. Laws on the Internet: Lists in popular name order the legislative histories that are available on HeinOnline, Lexis and Westlaw (from the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.).

Legislative Histories of Selected U.S. Laws on the Internet: Collects links to freely available complied legislative histories (from the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.).

Subject Treatises

A compiled legislative history may be found in subject treatises or as independent publications in the library catalog.  A keyword search of the catalog using the query legislative and history plus a subject or statute name might uncover a treatise with a complied legislative history (e.g., legislative and history and OSHA).


Lists of Citations

Lists of citations reference at least some of the documents associated with a particular public law and sometimes will include abstracts or links to full-text of those documents.  ProQuest Congressional, Lexis, and offer the most comprehensive lists, while Thomas, USCCAN, CCH Congressional Index and the Congresisonal Record offer more selective lists.  Subject and word searches and browsing functions are available for locating legislation.

ProQuest Congressional:  The Legislative Histories, Bills and Laws database (1969--) lists citations for bills, prints, hearings, reports, debates and signing statements for the session in which the law was passed and for related bills from prior sessions and links to some abstracts and selected full text. The Library of Congress documents database for legislation, with coverage from the 93rd Congress (1799-); Search or browse functions for bills, bill status, full text of all versions, and all congressional actions on bills.  Coverage dates vary depending on the the type of document. replaces and augments coverage found on

Lexis:  US--CIS Legislative Histories file (1970--) contains legislative histories of key public laws prepared by the Congressional Information Service (CIS).  It has the same information as ProQuest Congressional. 

USCCAN (United States Code Congressional and Administrative News): Each Congress has two sets of volumes:  the Laws volumes which reprint the text of the Statutes at Large and the Legislative History volumes which reprint abbreviated lists of citations, selected excerpted reports and presidential signing statements.  This is a West publication and is available on Westlaw (1948--) and in print in the library (1941--) (KF51.U49).  

CCH Congressional Index:  The status table of actions (1937--) refers to reports and hearings related to a particular law, but not to the Congressional Record.  It is available in print in the library (KF49.C6).

Congressional Record Index:  The History of Bills and Resolutions lists Congressional Record page numbers and committe report numbers for bills that are reported in the Congressional Record.  The History of Bills is available on FDsys (1983--) and in the Congressional Record Library on HeinOnline (1873--).