Note on editorial method

Pages ix-xi

Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 10, Officials of Royal Commissions of Inquiry 1870-1939. Originally published by University of London, London, 1995.

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Note on Editorial Method

This volume lists British Royal Commissions appointed between 1870 and the Second World War. It differs from its predecessor (fn. 1) in that it is not confined to Royal Commissions into subjects concerning England and Wales. It lists Scottish Commissions, and those Irish, Indian and Colonial inquiries which were appointed as Royal rather than Vice-Regal Commissions. It also gives brief details of permanent, semi-permanent and electoral commissions. (fn. 2)

The arrangement of this book uses the same broad format as the previous volume: the introduction is followed by entries detailing individual Royal Commissions, with separate indexes for names of Commission personnel, and Commissions.

The main part of the book consists of entries on each British Royal Commission which was appointed between 1870 and the Second World War, and gives the date of appointment; the number of the report where appropriate; the date when the report was signed, or the date of its presentation to Parliament if no date for signature was given; the sessional year if relevant; the Command number of the report; volume and page number. Where a Command number is followed by a hyphen and one or more small roman numerals or there are two successive Command numbers before a volume number, this indicates that the report is followed by Minutes of Evidence, appendices, etc. If there are several volumes of evidence and ancillary documents these have been referenced separately from the reports under the general heading of 'other papers', and give the sessional year, Command number and volume number (page numbers have not been included): see, for example, the 1894 Commission on Labour. After 1921 evidence was published separately as non-Parliamentary papers, and for a number of years the references give the year of publication and the heading used in the Consolidated Index to non-Parliamentary papers. From the the mid-1930s the more usual practice was to index the evidence for Royal Commissions under the name of the Commission itself. This inconsistent method of referencing has been adopted partly for reasons of space, but also because of the lack of a standard format in the reporting of Commissions. Costs are taken from the Parliamentary Returns and from the estimates which were required to be printed with the reports after 1921.

During this period most Royal Commissions were issued under the Royal Sign Manual, and only variations from this practice have been noted. These were usually Colonial Commissions which were written under the Royal Sign Manual and Signet, and some Scottish Commissions issued under Letters Patent under the Great Seal and counter-sealed in Edinburgh.

The titles and surnames of Commissioners are given in the order in which they appear on the Warrants of appointment, with the chairman being named first; full forenames and the family names of Bishops and Peers are given in the name index. Dates of death are given only when the person died during the course of the Commission. The names of the Secretary and Assistant Secretaries, together with their usual profession or Government department where known, follow the names of Commissioners; if a Secretary was named in the Warrant this is indicated. Changes in membership and terms of reference are listed, together with the dates of the Warrants which recorded them. The dates of knighthoods or elevations to the peerage are recorded within the entries if they occurred during the person's service on a Commission, and in the index if they were between Commissions. The names of Assistant Commissioners have been noted when included in the reports, and where it was possible to trace full names for the majority of them.

The specific terms of reference have been abbreviated when they are more than a few sentences in the original Warrant, and except in very extensive cases follow the same format and wording. The first words are printed in bold to distinguish the terms of reference from any subsequent text, and the spelling of inquire/enquire is that used on the Warrants. In general only the names of those who signed minority reports or reservations to majority reports are given; it should be assumed that all other Commissioners signed the majority report.

Appendix 1 lists a number of Royal Commissions which do not fit into the general classification scheme used in this book, and is in four sections. The first lists Commissions established to arrange or co-ordinate Britain's contribution to international exhibitions; these were generally presided over by the current Prince of Wales and often included other members of the royal family, offering a rather less contentious form for royal involvement than social inquiries. (fn. 3) They often had many members, and only their president and/or chairman, and secretary are listed here. The second category are those Commissions of a permanent or semi-permanent nature which are listed with their first chairman, first report, and last report if closed before 1940. The third section follows the same format as the main part of the book and gives details of the two Special Commissions into the conduct of the War in Dardanelles and Mesopotamia. The final section is a list of the Commissions set up to inquire into electoral corruption, giving only the date, place and number of the report.

The first three sections are indexed in the name index with an 'A' preceding their number in the appendix. The election Commissions have not been indexed.


  • 1. Officials of Royal Commissions of Inquiry 1815-70, comp. J.M. Collinge (1984).
  • 2. See Appendix 1.
  • 3. See no. 82.