The Conservative Party Archive was established at the Bodleian in 1978. Since then, the Party archives dating back to 1867 have been steadily catalogued and made available for research. They cover everything from constituency work going back to 1945 to the workings of the policy groups and committees in the 20th century. The archives show how new policies gained approval or otherwise from the rank-and-file through the records of the National Union of Conservative & Unionist Associations and the annual Party conferences, the records of which date back to 1867. Much of the material in the archive is important as part of a cumulative picture of policy and political decisions, but some pieces stand out in their own right.
Minutes of the first ever annual Conservative Party Conference, 12 November 1867 [NUA 2/1/1]
Minutes of the Special Meeting of the National Union’s Central Council held on 14 July 1971, at which Heath addressed 1,800 members on the subject of the terms for Britain’s entry into the EEC as published in the Government’s White Paper; one of the questions put to him after his speech concerned whether or not Conservative MPs would be allowed a free vote in Parliament [NUA 3/1/4]
On 3 February 1960, Macmillan addressed the Union of South Africa in Cape Town. He repeated an earlier speech (first given in January in Ghana) in which he made it clear that Britain’s policy towards its African holdings would shift. The speech signalled a recognition of the ‘African national consciousness’ and the fact that the British Empire’s days were waning.
A small collection of archival photographs helps to document the events and members of the Party over the years. Here, election posters are displayed in London before the 1910 election.
The CPA holds election addresses from general elections throughout much of the 20th century [PUB 229/9]
The CPA's collections reflect the battle for universal suffrage and the elections and work of the first female MPs [PUB 190/5]
The Conservative Party Archive Poster Collection dates back to the Conservatives' attack on Lloyd George's People's Budget and support for the Tariff Reform League in 1909, but includes earlier posters back to 1886. It has been digitised and is available online.
All images © Conservative Party Archive Trust