Skip to main content

Modern day Hansard notebook

When parliamentary reporting was illegal, until the mid-18th century, those brave enough to try and report speeches could either “take furtive notes from some concealed station”, as the 18th century publisher Edward Cave did, or they could try to memorise what was said, as “Memory” Woodfall did at the end of the 18th century. The lifting of the ban on parliamentary reporting in the 1800s at first saw the use of longhand notetaking, as practised by the parliamentary reporters Lord Campbell and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but shorthand quickly found its way into Parliament, and the two approaches were both used at the turn of the 19th century. Shorthand dominated the 19th century, but it, too, gave way to competition, first from stenographic reporters, who used stenograph machines to take phonetic shorthand records of what was said, and then in the 1960s the Lords introduced reel-to-reel recording. For two decades, shorthand writers worked alongside recordings of the debates, but it meant that the reporter no longer needed to write down every word that was uttered in the Chamber, and now Hansard no longer requires shorthand when recruiting. Reporters today take general notes in the Chamber, like those seen here, and use digital audio recordings of the debate to produce their report.