How to find treaties

This guide explains how to find the text of UK treaties in our library and online.

UK treaties are usually published as command papers, which we hold on:

  • microfiche from 1801 onwards
  • Public Information Online from 1835

Our library holds treaties to which the UK is a party.

For an explanation of treaty terms, see Bowman & Harris, Multilateral Treaties (Bay G6) or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Indexes

Use the indexes listed below to find the command paper number.

Parry’s Index to British Treaties

This covers UK bilateral or multilateral treaties from 1101 to 1988 in four volumes (Bay G6).

The index is arranged by date of signature and includes a list of sources. There are also subject and country indexes.

Index to Treaty Series 1968 to 2012

This index covers UK bilateral and multilateral treaties from 1968 to 2012 (Bay G6).

Bowman & Harris, Multilateral Treaties (plus supplement)

Bowman & Harris, Multilateral Treaties (Bay G6) can be used to trace multilateral treaties and to see whether the UK has ratified them. It contains most treaties likely to be encountered in practice from 1856 to 1994.

It’s arranged by date of signature and includes a list of sources. It has a subject index and an index based on key words in the treaty title.

Index to House of Commons Parliamentary Papers (1801 to 2006/07)

Our library staff can use this index to look up treaties by subject when the year or exact title is not known.

You can ask them to use this index to find the command paper number, microfiche number and volume and page number of command papers dated before 1979.

Textbooks and collections

Some treaties may appear as appendices in textbooks or in collections of treaties. Our library has the following textbooks:

  • Brownlie, Basic Documents on Human Rights (2006) – onsite storage
  • Shawcross & Beaumont, Air Law – up to date to November 2017 (Bay 20)
  • Simon’s Taxes (5th edition) – double taxation treaties involving the UK (Bay 23)
  • Tweeddale, Arbitration of Commercial Disputes, International and English Law and Practice (2005) – Bay 4

Online resources

Public Information Online

We have a subscription to Public Information Online, which contains command papers from 1835 onwards.

You can access the database in our library or ask our library staff to find a command paper for you.

UK Treaties Online

Use UK Treaties Online to access details of over 14,000 treaties involving the UK. You can:

  • research the existence of treaties
  • see which states or organisations participate in them
  • find information such as the place and date of signature and entry into force date

Treaty Series

Use the Treaty Series to find all command papers published in the UK Treaty Series from 2013 to present.

Checking the status and parties to a treaty

Multilateral treaties

If the treaty was concluded before 1983, check the 1984 volume of Bowman & Harris (Bay G6) using the subject index or the chronological list. Update treaties using part B of the 1995 volume.

If the treaty was concluded after June 1983, check part A of the 1995 volume.

UK bilateral and multilateral treaties

You can use Parry’s Index to British Treaties (Bay G6) to find UK treaties:

  • Volume 1 to find a bilateral treaty by country or subject, or multilateral treaty by subject from 1101 to 1968
  • Volume 2 (1101 to 1925) and Volume 3 (1926 to 1968) contain a chronological list of treaties, giving details of the place and date of signature, entry into force, parties and termination (where applicable)
  • Volume 4 (Part I) – use this to update (to 1988) any entry found in Volume 2 or 3
  • Volume 4 (Part II) – use the index at the back to trace a treaty from 1968 to 1988

Recent status information

The sources listed above are limited by date of publication. The status of treaties is constantly changing. We suggest that you update any information found in Bowman & Harris and Parry’s Index.

For recent UK status information, email the Treaty Enquiry Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or call 020 7008 1109.

For recent status information for other countries, contact the relevant depositary government or organisation. This information is usually indicated in the final provisions of the treaty.

Bowman & Harris also lists depositaries. Some depositaries publish treaty texts and status information on the internet.

If you use the internet for treaty research, make sure that the site is authoritative and the status information is current.

Preparatory materials

Preparatory documents exist for every treaty but only a limited number are published, usually by the depositary concerned. Getting material from a depositary is likely to take a long time.

Resources

FCO Treaty Section

UN Treaty Collection

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