House History Bibliography

Historical Highlight

The defining features of the U.S. House of Representatives—semiannual election of the entire membership, election from districts of roughly equal size—have exerted great influence on the institution’s development. The House has always been a large body, beginning with 65 members and growing to 435. Size has proven both a burden and an advantage. Coordinating the activities of a large number of elected Representatives has been a constant challenge. Yet size also allows for closer contact with constituents and makes policy expertise a potential strength.

The history of the House oscillates between centralization and decentralization. A constant balancing between these two poles of organizing responds to the internal and external demands on the House. For instance, the House can be a lawmaking machine producing bills at a rapid clip, or it can be a deliberative agency weighing legislative proposals carefully and in detail. Each of these extremes emphasizes different aspects of the House. The lawmaking machine is best displayed under central control by the majority leadership, while deliberation has usually meant the ascendance of committees and subcommittees.

This bibliography is a compilation of both official House histories and scholarly analyses of the House of Representatives. While not an exhaustive list, it is meant to help researchers and students gain a more sophisticated understanding of the institutional developments and personalities that have shaped the House. This bibliography is organized into three sections: