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Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Research Department


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The papers of the Conservative Research Department, comprising:

  1. Subject-based research files, 1919-1999;
  2. Briefs, 1961-1995;
  3. Directors' papers, 1931-1995;
  4. Desk Officers' letter books, 1925-1995;
  5. Minutes of Conservative Parliamentary Backbench Committees, 1930-1992.


  • Creation: 1919-1999


226 Linear metres (1504 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English

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 1; CRD 2; CRD 3; CRD 4; CRD 5; CRD/B; CRD/D/; CRD/L; CRD/P

Collection ID (for staff)



Papers of the Conservative Research Department, 1919-1999.

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, 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. CRD personnel were also responsible for servicing Party committees and policy groups by minute-taking. Consequently the records of the CRD include papers from these various groups and committees.

The CRD played a crucial role in the regeneration of the Party after the defeat of 1945, and again during the period in opposition after 1964, although it was to some extent overshadowed by the think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies in the period of opposition between 1975-1979. By 1980, the CRD had been divided into four sections, which have remained roughly the same since: the Economic Section, Home Affairs Section, Political (and Consitutional) Section, and International Section. Although CRD Desk Officers (later known as Subject Specialists) could be expected to change desks during their period of service in order to widen their experience, they would bear primary responsibility for a limited area of policy, which normally corresponded to a Government Department, and would work closely with the relevant Conservative Minister, Shadow Minister or Front Bench spokesman.

Although its importance fluctuates according to the particular concerns of the Party Leader, the CRD has always been, and remains, one of the central departments in Party organisation. Since 1979 the Conservative Research Department 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.


The papers of the Conservative Research Department have been arranged into several chronological subject file series, in which papers are arranged according to the policy areas that they cover; briefs produced by desk officers; the letter books of desk officers; the papers of CRD directors; and the minutes of parliamentary backbench committees.

Custodial History

The archive of the Conservative Party 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 of the archive has been vested in the Conservative Party Archive Trust. The archive includes records from all three areas of Party organisation: parliamentary, voluntary and professional.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Conservative Party

Related Materials

For publications produced by the Conservative Research Department, see catalogues:

  1. CPA PUB B: Conservative Party Archive: Printed and Published Material: Conservative Party (and affiliated froups) pamphlets;
  2. CPA PUB M: Conservative Party Archive: Printed and Published Material: Conservative Party sectional-interest newsletters, journals and periodicals.

For other papers relating to the Conservative Research Department, see:

  1. CPA CCO 500/30/1-12: Conservative Research Department, 1957-1982;
  2. CPA CCO 20/49/1-13: Conservative Research Department, 1965-1985;
  3. CPA COB 8/2/1-7: Foreign affairs briefings and research, 1949-1996
  4. CPA CCO 4: Conservative Central Office - Subject Files.



Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Research Department
EAD version 2020 by Anabel Farrell
EAD version 2020
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom