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Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Research Department: Briefs


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Conservative Research Department: Briefs, 1964-1988.


  • 1964-1990


464 shelfmarks

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

General access conditions apply to this material.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, Conservative Party Archive [followed by shelfmark, e.g. CRD 1/1/1].
Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

CRD/B/1-32, CRD/B/WB/1-23, CRD 4/5/14

Collection ID (for staff)



Conservative Research Department: Briefs, 1964-1988

Biographical / Historical

The Conservative Research Department (CRD) was established in November 1929 and rapidly assumed a position of considerable importance in the Party's policy-making process. It advises Party leaders on the formulation of policy, undertakes detailed, long-term research on a wide range of issues, services Party committees from the Leader's Consultative Committee (Shadow Cabinet) downwards, provides authoritative briefs to MPs in preparation for Parliamentary debates, plays a major role in the writing of Party publications and the vetting of Party publicity, and analyses public opinion trends in order to advise the leadership on electoral strategy. Although its importance fluctuates according to the particular concerns of the Party Leader, it has always been, and remains, one of the central departments in Party organisation.

Since 1979 the CRD has been contained, organisationally and physically, within the Conservative Central Office. Before that, however, it was a separate body, housed separately and, for much of its life, organisationally independent also, with its own chairman and director. For this reason its papers have been catalogued separately from those of Central Office.

Briefs were originally prepared for and presented to the Committee of the Parliamentary Party under whose jurisdiction the subject matter came, but these did not necessarily reflect the relevant Government Department (for instance, briefs were prepared for the Conservative Parliamentary Agriculture Committee and assigned a ‘PAC’ reference, or subsequently an ‘AG’ reference, denoting Agriculture, despite the various restructurings of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

By the mid-1980s, briefs seem to have been prepared according to policy area without reference to any specific parliamentary committee, and made available to all Members prior to parliamentary debates.These policy areas more closely reflected the remit of the government department concerned, so that knowledge of the responsible department is needed in order to locate any relevant briefs. No central, comprehensive index of all briefs produced by the Research Department seems to have been kept, except for the years 1995-1999.


Up to 1964, briefs have generally been catalogued with the rest of the papers of the CRD; however, cross-references are given where they have been identified. It is hoped that these earlier briefs will be catalogued in more details in due course and added to this catalogue.

References: Briefs were usually (but not consistently) given an alphanumeric reference number to denote a particularly policy area or committee. Where evident, briefs have been listed showing any contemporary CRD references applied. If '[Vacant]' appears next to a brief reference, this means that it is missing from the collection held in the Conservative Party Archive, not necessarily that no brief was produced. References were either written in the form PAC(65)1 or PAC/65/1, but the former has been adopted throughout this catalogue for the sake of consistency. It is possible for the same reference to be used for briefs written for entirely different policy areas - eg, PAC(65)1 is the reference given to a brief on 'Channel Islands' Milk' prepared for the Parliamentary Agriculture Committee on 1st March 1965, and also a brief on 'Independent Airlines under the Socialists' prepared for the Parliamentary Aviation Committee dated 22nd February 1965. As a result, this led to occasional contemporary mis-filing of briefs into the wrong policy series when the papers were still held at the CRD. Where this has been identified the briefs have been removed to and catalogued under the correct series.

Authors: briefs were usually prepared by the Desk Officer in the Conservative Research Department with the relevant specialism in that particular policy area. CRD house style was to include the initials of the Desk Officer who compiled the brief only, up to the mid-1980s when full names were more often given. Letter Books of many of the Desk Officers have also been transferred to the Conservative Party Archive, so it is possible that further background material survives - see the separate catalogue: CRD/L. Occasionally briefs were circulated by the Research Department which were written by Members of Parliament, Ministers or Shadow Ministers, eg, the brief ref. PG/13/65/47 on Widows' Benefits, written by Margaret Thatcher MP, then the Conservative Shadow Spokewoman for Housing and Land, dated 01/06/1965.

Dates: Dates given in the form '31st January 1984' refer to the title of the brief, or the date of the parliamentary debate for which it was written, whereas dates given in the form '31/01/1984' refer to the date that the brief was written. Briefs were usually produced and circulated a few days prior to a parliamentary debate, occasionally only the day before.

Custodial History

The Conservative Party Archive (CPA) was established as a source for academic study at the Bodleian Library in 1978 by an agreement made between the University of Oxford and the Conservative Party, and brought together surviving historic papers of the Party previously held in various locations including Newcastle University Library and the former Conservative Central Office in Smith Square, London. Since 1996, ownership and financial responsibility for the CPA has been vested in the Conservative Party Archive Trust. The CPA preserves the records of all three areas of Party organisation: parliamentary, voluntary and professional. It is recognised by the Conservative Party as the official repository for its historic records and those of affiliated organisations, and receives new material on a regular basis.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Conservative Party.

Related Materials

For other records relating to the Conservative Research Department, see the following series:-
  1. CRD 1: Papers, c.1929-1940
  2. CRD 2: Papers, 1925-1969
  3. CRD 3: Papers, 1948-1979
  4. CRD 4: Papers, 1974-1987
  5. CRD/D: Directors' Papers, 1946-1988
  6. CRD/L: Desk Officers'/Subject Specialists' Letter Books, c.1930s-1987
  7. CRD/P: Committees of teh Parliamentary Party, c.1946-1990
Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Research Department
Finding aid prepared by Jeremy McIlwaine
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom