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cq Historic Documents
Congressional Quarterly Press.
Reviewed Dec. 27–28, 2007.

Despite its name, Congressional Quarterly (cq) puts out everything but a quarterly. Its publications include cq Today, cq Almanac, Guide to Congress, Congress and the Nation, and cq Historic Documents, with many of these now available online. One need not be a congressional historian to appreciate cq. Researchers who deal with Congress have long since learned to turn first to its array of guides, but other historians dealing with practically any issue in modern times can likewise find in them an abundance of relevant information.

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cq launched its primary-source Historic Documents series in 1972 and has since published thirty-five thick volumes that fill several library shelves. The first volume opens with a January 2, 1972, interview by Dan Rather with President Richard M. Nixon on Vietnam and the pending election, and then proceeds month by month with documents ranging from the surgeon general’s report on television violence to a California controversy over teaching the biblical explanation of human origins along with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Over the decades, the volumes continued the same pattern and format, growing even more diverse in subject matter. The 2005 volume includes congressional testimony on steroid use in baseball, the closing arguments of the trial of the 1964 murders of civil rights workers in Mississippi, President George W. Bush’s “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” remarks on Hurricane Katrina, and a Government Accountability Office (gao) report on the morning-after pill. The diverse topics are preceded by ntroductory essays that provide historical context in a reliable, balanced manner, and that have grown more detailed over time. Subjects that recur over multiple volumes are linked by cumulative indexes.

A year-by-year reading would benefit anyone writing the history of one of the decades covered, but researchers are more likely to consult the series for specific issues across time, and the online version makes it far less cumbersome to retrieve those documents topically. The online material is divided into eight categories: business, the economy, and work; defense, security, and military affairs; energy, environment, transportation, science, and technology; government and politics; health care, social services, housing, and education; international affairs; media, culture, and life in America; and rights, responsibilities, and criminal justice. Each category is further subdivided by topic—for example, documents in the last section are sorted into civil rights; constitutional rights and civil liberties; consumer rights and protection; crime and violence; judicial process; and privacy rights. A “How to Cite” section offers advice on citing individual documents for scholarly publications in different disciplines.

The material is convenient rather than comprehensive. Although the series encompasses some 2,500 documents, it is still highly selective, and researchers pursuing any issue in depth will need to look elsewhere for related items that lie beyond its scope. Also, with powerful search engines available on the Internet, most of the included documents can likely be found on the Web sites of the originating agencies. However, the easy access, the subject and chronological arrangements, and the thoughtful contextual essays will enhance the use of cq Historic Documents by students and other researchers, making it a site well worth visiting.

Donald A. Ritchie
U.S. Senate Historical Office
Washington, D.C.