What's in the CPA?

The Conservative Party Archive (CPA) was established at the Bodleian in 1978 to,

Preserve archival materials which illustrate the growth and development of the Conservative Party’s central organisation or which relate in whole or in part to activities within the Conservative Party central organisation.

The CPA dates back to 1867 with the minutes of the National Union of Conservative & Unionist Associations - to which all local Conservative constituency associations were eventually affiliated - which was established on Disraeli’s instructions. The National Union records represent the voluntary wing of the Party and its grass-roots membership, as expressed in the records of the annual Conservative Party Conferences (since 1867), its regional Area Offices (since 1886), and its various National Advisory Committees for women, trade unions, local government, teachers and students (since 1945). The CPA holds a virtually unbroken series of its records until it was superseded by the National Convention in 1998.

The CPA primarily consists of the records of Conservative Central Office (and its many departments and committees), since the 1930s. Also set up by Disraeli, in 1870, its records prior to this date survive only amongst the private papers of former Party Chairmen.

Probably the most important collection held within the CPA is the papers of the Conservative Research Department, which was set up by Chamberlain following defeat in the 1929 general election. Its papers are complete back to that date and continue to be most regularly added-to part of the entire Archive. Of particular significance are the minutes and papers of the many policy groups it includes, particularly during periods when the party was in opposition, as well as the minutes and papers of committees of the Parliamentary Party.

Records of the Conservative Parliamentary Party are patchy, but the minutes of some parliamentary committees do survive for the period c1945-1980s amongst the records of the Conservative Research Department. Besides these, the CPA also holds the papers of the 1922 Committee since 1922, the Whips’ Office since 1923, and Shadow Cabinet, 1945-2010.

The CPA has a small but growing collection of publications and papers of Conservative-leaning think tanks and Conservative Party-affiliated Groups.

The CPA audio-visual collections include:

    • Press Agency photographs of Conservative Party conferences, events and personalities, 1903-present
    • Video tapes and audio cassettes of Party Conferences and Party Political Broadcasts, 1970s-1990s
    • CDs, DVDs, digital video tape of Party conferences, PPBs, Webcameron etc since c2001
    • Copies of interviews with key Conservative Party personalities carried out either as part of our oral history programme or donated from other sources
    • Some film, c1950s-1970s

The CPA's Library of Printed and Published Material includes:

    • pamphlets, newsletters and magazines published by the Party, 1868-present
    • General Election leaflets 1885-present
    • Posters, 1910-present
    • Manifestos, 1922-present
    • Press releases and speech transcripts, 1950-present

The online catalogue to all the collections held within the Conservative Party Archive can be found here.

Back to top