In 1884, Woodrow Wilson published Congressional Government, in which he famously observed that the House of Representatives "legislates in its committee-rooms... so that it is not far from the truth to say that Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee-rooms is Congress at work."
Much of the work of the House of Representatives takes place in its committees. Of the twenty one committees in the current House, however, only eleven have ever had histories written, and of those, only five have been written or updated in the last twenty years. In order to encourage a better understanding of the history of the House of Representatives by Members, staff, scholars, and the general public, the Office of the Historian is researching and writing the histories of selected House committees.
The Office of the Historian has developed a standard format for a short, interpretative committee history, which includes a significant amount of reference material. Rather than concentrate on one or two definitive committee histories, it was thought best to have a series of shorter histories, which would provide the basis for larger projects, either through this Office, or the larger scholarly community. This format is designed to be a first source, built around a short, interpretive narrative, and include an issue-chronology, a jurisdictional history, all committee and subcommittee members, landmark legislation, short biographies of chairmen, and listing of major hearings. The first completed work was A History of the Committee on Science and Technology, 1958-2008 (2008). Currently, the Office of the Historian is researching and writing several short committee histories, and is also researching longer, definitive histories of selected committees.
- The Committee on Education and Labor (in 2010)
- The Committee on Veterans' Affairs (in 2010)
- The Committee on Ways and Means (revised ed.) (in 2010)
- The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (in 2011)
- The Committee on Appropriations (in 2012)