West European governments have now largely transitioned from print to online dissemination of their publications. The British Library's guides provides links to these publications and details its printed holdings.
About the collection
By 1898 exchange agreements had been concluded with Austria, France, Italy and Norway, the USA and Chile plus eight colonies. By 1972, the British Museum Library had 350 exchange partners including all Western European countries. National level exchanges fell into three main categories:
- Complete reciprocal exchanges of all official publications on both sides. These only existed for large countries such as France
- Large exchanges, not complete on either side but including all significant material, e.g. East and West Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Spain
- Exchanges with smaller countries which sent all their significant publications, but received only a selection of the British output, eg. Luxembourg
These exchanges were cancelled or cut back in the early 1990s due to financial stringency leading to some gaps in the collection.
What is available online?
Most West European official publications are now freely available online, with many no longer appearing in print.
Links to official material from stable democracies are provided in the following collections guides (PDF format):
What is available in our Reading Rooms?
The PDF guides listed above indicate the main series of government publications held by the British Library. Given the complexity of this material, please ask staff at the Social Sciences Reference Enquiry Desk for help with finding out if we have the documents you need.
Some reference books and finding aids to older West European official publications are shelved in the Social Sciences reading room along with each country’s main statistical annual and administrative yearbook, where still available in print. Most printed official publications have to be requested for delivery to the Social Sciences Reading Room.
Sternberg, Ilse, 'The British Museum Library and the Development of the International Exchange of Official Documents', Electronic British Library Journal (2002). This article provides a full list of exchanges with West European countries and a flavour of what was exchanged.