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Think Tanks


Although think-tanks are independent organisations, a number of right-of-centre think-tanks have been particularly influential in the development of Conservative Party policy since the 1970s. The Conservative Party Archive consequently holds a small collection of material relating to the think tanks listed below. With the exception of the Bow Group, material held consists of published pamphlets and newsletters only, for the covering dates shown:


               The Bow Group (1954-c2007)
               Centre for Policy Studies (1975-present)
               Civitas: The Institute for the Study of Civil Society (2005-present)
               Institute of Economic Affairs (1972-2004)
               Institute of Fiscal Studies (1987-2001)
               Social Market Foundation (1992-2001)
               Selsdon Group (1973-1984)
               The Monday Club (1967-1985)


The Bow Group (1954-c2007)
The Bow Group is an independent group of younger Conservatives, and is the oldest Conservative thinktank in Britain independent of Party organisation. Its membership includes Conservative MPs, but is not restricted to them. Founded in 1951 by several Oxford graduates, it takes its name from the site of its first meetings: the Bow and Bromley Constitutional Club in the East End of London. The Bow Group was intended to act as a Conservative equivalent to the Fabian Society. That is, it would be a national research body, whose members could publish reports and discussion papers on any number of subjects, without having formal ties to a political party. Its publications have been an influential forum for Conservative thinking, but it does not operate as a pressure group in pursuit of particular policy objectives. The group's journal, Crossbow is published three times a year.

Records held:
               Minutes and papers, 1957-1990s [uncatalogued]
               Pamphlets, 1957-2000, see series PUB 118/18-20
               Pamphlets, 2000-2007 [uncatalogued]
               Crossbow, 1957-2001, see series PUB 195


Centre for Policy Studies (1975-present)
The Centre for Policy Studies is an independent centre right think tank, founded in 1974 by Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph, which develops and publishes public policy proposals and arranges seminars and lectures on topical policy issues, as part of its mission to influence policy around the world. It also maintains a range of informal contacts with politicians, policymakers, civil servants and the press, in Britain and abroad.

Records held:
               Pamphlets, 1975-2000, see series PUB 106-113, PUB 116, PUB 159-160b, PUB 186, PUB 230
               Pamphlets, 2000-present [uncatalogued]
               Policy Challenge, 1986-1991, see series PUB 114
               Pointmaker, 1992-present, see series PUB 115
               Perspective, 2005-present, see series PUB 234


Civitas: The Institute for the Study of Civil Society (2005-present)
Civitas is an independent, educational charity which attempts to find solutions to social problems, implements pioneering projects to demonstrate what can be accomplished, supplies schools with teaching materials and guest speakers and supports informed public debate and consensus.

Records held:
               Pamphlets and other publications, c2006-present [uncatalogued]
               Civitas Review, 2006-present [uncatalogued]


Institute of Economic Affairs (1972-2004)
The Institute of Economic Affairs is a free-market think-tank, founded in 1955. The IEA's goal is to explain free-market ideas to the public, including politicians, students, journalists, businessmen, academics and anyone interested in public policy. The IEA's main activity is a programme of researching and publishing books (up to 20 a year) and a quarterly journal on various public policy issues.

Records held:
               Reports, 1972-2004 [uncatalogued]


Institute of Fiscal Studies (1987-2001)
The Institute for Fiscal Studies is a research institute which exists to provide top quality economic analysis independent of government, political party or any other vested interest. The IFS exerts substantial influence through publications, the media, close contacts with civil servants and regular meetings with Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet members. Its goal is to promote effective economic and social policies by understanding better their impact on individuals, families, businesses and the government's finances.

Records held:
               Reports, 1987-2001 [uncatalogued]


Social Market Foundation (1992-2001)
The Social Market Foundation is a leading UK think tank, developing innovative ideas across a broad range of economic and social policy. It champions policy ideas which marry markets with social justice and takes a pro-market rather than free-market approach. Its work is characterised by the belief that governments have an important role to play in correcting market failures and setting the framework within which markets can operate in a way that benefits individuals and society as a whole.

The Social Market Foundation is politically independent, and works with all of the UK's main political parties. Records held:
               Reports, memoranda & papers, 1992-2001 [uncatalogued]


Selsdon Group (1973-1984)
Formed in 1973, the Selsdon Group was named after Heath's U-turn over the Conservatives' 1970 election manifesto, which followed a meeting of the Shadow Cabinet at The Selsdon Park Hotel near Croydon, Surrey. The manifesto, which advocated a radical free market agenda, was resurrected by the late Nicholas Ridley and others to create a new group to uphold and promote the case for free market policies within the Conservative Party.

Philosophically, its members believe that economic freedom is the indispensable condition for political and social freedom. Tactically, members reject the view that the "middle ground" is where elections and won. It believes that the Conservative Party wins office when it adopts distinctive Conservative policies based on choice, private ownership and individual freedom. Records held:
               Pamphlets, 1974-1982, see series PUB 148/3
               Briefs, 1973-1964, see series PUB 148/4


The Monday Club (1967-1985)
Founded on 1st January 1961 during the party's internal debate over decolonisation, it was formed out disillusionment within the Party at the perceived drift to the Left under Macmillan and sought to force local associations to discuss and debate Party policy. It seeks to uphold the preservation of the constitution and existing institutions, the freedom of the individual, private ownership of property and the need for Britain to play a leading part in world affairs.

The main impetus for the group's formation was provided by the African policies of the Conservative government in particular as a general reaction to Macmillan's 'Wind of Change' speech. The Club promoted a policy of voluntary, or assisted, repatriation for non-white immigrants, and it was ultimately because of its race and immigration policies that the Conservative Party suspended its long-standing link with the Monday Club in October 2001. Records held:
               Pamphlets, 1960-1989, see series PUB 117
               Monday World, 1967-1982, see series PUB 149/1-3
               Monday News, 1972-1985, see series PUB 149/4
               Tory Challenge, 1976-1980, see series PUB 147


Conservative Party Archive

Last updated: 07 March 2012, Jeremy McIlwaine