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US Legislative Materials & Histories: Compiled Legislative Histories

This guide is designed to help you find federal legislative documents in the Law Library, in the Graduate Library, and through online resources

Published Legislative Histories

Don't reinvent the wheel! Sometimes you can find the legislative history of a statute that has already been compiled by scholars before you. Check the sources below to see if there is one available.

ProQuest Congressional

ProQuest Congressional is an excellent database for all things related to the U.S. Congress, and legislative histories are no exception. Coverage of Public Laws is as follows:

  • 1999-current. Complete legislative histories of all Public Laws.
  • 1984-1998. Complete legislative histories of most Public Laws.
  • 1969-1983. Abbreviated legislative histories of all Public Laws.

From the ProQuest Congressional Advanced Search page, make sure only Legislative Histories is checked in the left sidebar. Then search for the title of the Public Law or other identifying information.

Books & Articles


Legislative histories for individual laws are frequently published as books. Search for them in the MLaw catalog by running a Keyword search using the title of the act.

You can also find legislative histories in the catalog using a Subject search for “Legislative Histories.”


Find references to journal articles containing legislative histories in the periodical indexes Legaltrac or Index to Legal Periodicals and Books & Index to Legal Periodicals and Books Retrospective, by running a Subject search in the catalog, or by searching for the name of the statute you are researching.

Use Nexis Uni to search the full text or title of journal articles for your statute. In the box labeled Guided Search on the homepage, click Law Reviews and search for the statute name.


Compiled legislative histories may be published in a single volume. A list of these volumes is called a bibliography.

  1. Find a bibliography relevant to your statute.
  2. Locate the volume title of relevant compiled legislative history in the bibliography.
  3. Search for the title of the relevant volume in the Law Library and/or University Library catalogs to find the actual volume containing the compile legislative history.

U.S. Code Congressional & Administrative News

The sets U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (1952-Present, aka USCCAN) and its predecessors U.S. Code Congressional Service (1941-1950) and U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative Service (1951), reprint the text of most, but not all, federal public laws. They also include selected committee reports. USCCAN and U.S. Congressional Service are more useful for brief (rather than comprehensive) legislative history research.

CIS Index to Publications of the United States Congress

The CIS Index is mainly used for indexing and abstracting federal legislative documents but it also contains very comprehensive compiled legislative histories. There are two places to look for these compilations, depending on the year the legislation was passed.

Prior to 1984, the back of each annual Abstracts volume contains a section called "Legislative History Citations." This section includes citations to congressional documents numerically by Public Law (P.L.) number, for both the previous session and the current session.

Beginning in 1984, there are separate annual volumes called Legislative Histories that contain the same information. Public Law (P.L.) numbers are indexed in the Legislative Histories volumes by subject, name, and bill number. There is also a conversion table to find the Public Law (P.L.) number if you know the bill number.

Because some legislative histories are updated in subsequent years, it is important to check later volumes of the CIS Index for complete information.

You may also search the CIS Index using ProQuest Congressional (see above). Doing so allows you to search multiple index years at once (this is useful if you do not know when your document was indexed).

Compiled Tax Legislative Histories

Multi-volume legislative histories of federal tax laws may be found in the locations below

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