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Releases of Margaret Thatcher's personal papers
Release of MT's personal papers for 1983:
Warning note to Thatcher from Bernard Ingham.
Margaret Thatcher's 1983 papers were opened at the Archives Centre and
online on the website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation in October 2013.
Previously unseen personal papers for that year are now being made available for the
first time. Highlights include:
Papers on the Franks report on the Falklands conflict, including MT's heavily
annotated copy of the report
Detailed planning files for the 1983 General Election campaign
Congratulation letters on the election victory from domestic figures such as Lord
Carrington, as well as overseas leaders like President Reagan
Papers, including MT's handwritten notes, on changes to key Cabinet positions in the
reshuffle which followed the election victory and the resignation of Cecil Parkinson
Insights into MT's post-election psychology and advice on how the honeymoon period would
be followed by media attacks on her
Papers on MT's election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society, following a rare
contested election, including correspondence with her former Tutor Dorothy Hodgkin on the
Intriguing notes on a thaw in East-West relations (before the era of Mr Gorbachev) and a
"partly heretical" note sent from her personal advisor on foreign affairs suggesting
a judicious distancing of British policy from the US in areas other than the central Cold War
Release of MT's personal papers for 1982:
MT's notes made at a discussion with former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, showing the names for
inclusion in her Falklands War Cabinet (at that stage just MT, Chiefs of Staff, the Foreign Secretary and Defence
Reference: Thatcher Papers, THCR 1/20/3/5.
Margaret Thatcher's 1982 papers were opened online on the website of the
Margaret Thatcher Foundation and at the Archives Centre
in March 2013.
The year was dominated by the Falklands War, a conflict that defined much of Margaret Thatcher's political
career and legacy. Her previously unseen personal papers on the war are now being made available. Highlights include:
The confirmation from the British Antarctic Survey that the Falkland Islands had been invaded.
Margaret Thatcher's speech notes for the recall of Parliament on Saturday 3rd April (the first Saturday
sitting of the House since Suez).
Her PPS's notes on the meeting of the tense Backbench 1922 Committee that led to the resignation of
Lord Carrington as Foreign Secretary.
Her handwritten annotation suggesting that Francis Pym was not her obvious choice as a successor to Carrington.
Her handwritten notes of a private meeting with former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who famously advised
her to exclude Chancellor Geoffrey Howe from her War Cabinet.
Her annotated copy of the statement by Defence Secretary John Nott on the recapture of South Georgia (which
preceded her own statement "rejoice").
A draft of a letter to President Reagan that was not sent at a key point in the diplomatic talks to try to
end the conflict.
A note given to the Prime Minister recording that HMS Glamorgan had been hit, casualties unknown.
Material on the private dinner for the military and diplomats involved in the campaign which marked the
successful conclusion of the conflict.
Other papers being released include: detailed materials on her visit to China later in 1982, with papers on
the diplomatic protocol, Mrs Thatcher's clothes for the visit and the choice of menus for the key dinner for the
Chinese; political papers outlining key decisions taken during the year; and something of the Prime Minister's
private life at No 10 (the release features a letter from Barry Humphries, who sent her a letter of thanks for
dinner with an accompanying Dame Edna Everage cooking apron).
Margaret Thatcher's reaction on hearing of the Argentine surrender and the end of the war, noting
details of where men and equipment were to go, and numbers of prisoners and where to put them.
Reference: Thatcher Papers, THCR 1/20/3/48.
Release of MT's personal papers for 1981:
Margaret Thatcher's 1981 papers were opened online on the website of the
Margaret Thatcher Foundation and at the Archives Centre
in March 2012.
The highlights include:
Material on the two Government re-shuffles in 1981.
Papers on the complaints of the "wets" at Government economic policy in the 2nd half of 1981,
including the lobbying of a group styled "the Gang of 25" backbench Conservative MPs.
Conservative reactions and concerns at the rise of the new SDP.
A long account by Bernard Ingham of MT's private lunch with Rupert Murdoch, where he told her about his
forthcoming bid to buy Times Newspapers.
Copies of all MT's letters to and from other world leaders, including correspondence with out-going US
President Carter and his successor Ronald Reagan.
Copies of all signed out-letters by MT. Often these letters have handwritten postscripts by MT. (For example,
when a distressed child wrote to her in June 1981 asking for help to stop her parents divorcing, MT not only
wrote a lengthy personal reply, she offered to arrange a tour of the House of Commons and meet the girl in person
if she could come to London).
Material relating to the Royal Wedding of 1981, including the visit of American First Lady, Nancy Reagan.
A page of doodles left by President Reagan on the table beside MT at the Ottawa G7 summit.
Doodles left by President Reagan on the table beside Margaret Thatcher at the G7 summit at Ottawa in 1981,
which she picked up and filed away in the No 10 Downing Street flat.
Reference: Thatcher Papers, THCR 1/3/6.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.
Release of MT's personal papers for 1980:
On 21 March 2011 the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust opened for study at the Churchill Archives Centre Lady
Thatcher's personal and political papers for 1980. In all nearly 30,000 pages of documents were opened.
The highlights include:
Annotated drafts and a 'true copy' of Thatcher's 1980 conference speech, best known for her line,
"the Lady's NOT for turning".
Evidence of division in Cabinet: including unhappy letters from one of the "wets", Norman St John
Stevas, protesting the Cabinet's handling of MPs' pay and parliamentary reform. Treasury Chief Secretary John
Biffen, reckoned a stalwart of the right at this point in his career, was conspicuously at odds with other
ministers over the direction of policy in 1980, commenting "it is all a foreign tongue to me" on the
Government's Medium-Term Financial Strategy.
The difficult economic situation was discussed again and again in backbench Conservative committees during
1980. Much comment from both wings of the party was critical. Sir Keith Joseph said several times in public that
the government had wasted its first year, something Thatcher herself believed.
One of the organisations suffering spending cuts in the grim economic climate of 1980 was "the Clowns'
Training School", which apparently was funded by the Arts Council. The papers include a copy of a letter by
Thatcher to Class 2 at Edgeside C. of E. School (via local MP David Trippier) explaining the decision.
The No.10 Political Office gave the Thatchers a portable radio for Christmas 1979. MT replied from Chequers:
"Thank you a thousand times for solving a perpetual family feud as to who should have the radio by providing
us with another one. Now we can all listen to the Today programme and all complain to the BBC! It was most generous
and we do thank you".
Release of MT's personal papers for 1979:
On 30 January 2010 the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust opened for study at the Churchill Archives Centre Lady
Thatcher's personal and political papers from her first year as Prime Minister, May to December 1979.
The highlights include:
Detailed material on Conservative preparations for Government ahead of the 1979 General Election and
briefings surviving from the early days at No 10 Downing Street
Her handwritten notes on cabinet-making, 4-5 May 1979 (showing some interesting might-have-been
Her full correspondence with world leaders for 1979, including American President Carter and Soviet
Many asides and scribbled annotations on documents showing her reservations about the European Community,
from the very start of her premiership
Masses of material from the back office side of No.10, generally not surviving for previous governments,
including records of her Political Office, Policy Unit, Press Office and Diary Secretary. With their help it is
arguably possible to get a fuller picture of life at No.10 under Margaret Thatcher than during the term of any
of her predecessors. [Some of the material derives from the papers of
Sir Bernard Ingham (her long-serving press
secretary) and Sir John Hoskyns (head of her first Policy
Unit), in related collections held by the Archives Centre].
In 2003 and 2008 the vast majority of Margaret Thatcher's private files up to May 1979 were released at
Churchill Archives Centre, the first time the private papers of a living former Prime Minister have been made
available to the public.
Margaret Thatcher's official files for 1979 were opened at the National Archives in Kew at the beginning of
January 2010: this is the first time a British Prime Minister's private and official papers have been released
Thatcher files to be digitised and thousands placed online
The Churchill Archives Centre and Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust are currently arranging to digitise all of
Margaret Thatcher's personal and political papers files from her earliest years up to the end of her premiership,
comprising around a million pages of documents.
When the material is ready for release, many of these documents will be placed online at the official website
of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, which already offers massive
See also the Thatcher Papers catalogue,
a summary of the collection with access and contact
details and biographical notes on the life and career of
Margaret Thatcher by Christopher Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.
For further information about this release from the Thatcher Papers, please contact Andrew Riley (Archivist of the
Papers at Churchill College) by