The collection of papers of Baroness Thatcher deposited at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, is among the largest and most significant of late twentieth century political archives.
The archive contains over 1 million documents in nearly three thousand archive boxes currently occupying around 300 metres of shelving. The papers date from Margaret Thatcher's childhood to the end of her life, and include tens of thousands of photographs, as well as a vast collection of press cuttings, and many audio and video tapes of public and private events. Thatcher never kept a diary, but the archive includes rich details of her role in important domestic and world events.
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 online resources.
The archive includes files of correspondence relating to Thatcher's selection as candidate for Dartford in 1949, her short backbench career, briefing papers from her posts in opposition 1964-70, a few files from her time as Education Secretary 1970-74, and valuable papers on her campaign for the party leadership in 1974-75. Her appointment diaries survive from 1962 onwards, providing a very full record of the way she spent her time.
The bulk of the collection, however, relates to Thatcher's period as leader of the Conservative Party, 1975-90. There are extensive files from her time as Leader of the Opposition (1975-79), including correspondence with Shadow Cabinet colleagues, minutes of Shadow Cabinet and policy committees, and briefing material of all kinds. There are also thousands of speech drafts, press releases and administrative files (e.g., planning for election visits).
Papers on the premiership (1979-90) are more extensive still. Their organisation reflects the way in which Number Ten Downing Street arranged Prime Ministerial business, sharply distinguishing official from party and personal matters. Most of the official archive remains in government hands, while party and personal material can be found at Churchill College.
The papers include an extensive press cutting collection covering the years 1949-80 in over 70 boxes. Originally compiled by Conservative Central Office, it is one of the most comprehensive collections ever attempted, drawing on every national and many regional newspapers.
The archive also includes extensive files amassed in the years since the end of the Thatcher premiership, including correspondence with former colleagues in office, notes of important meetings, and many documents created during the writing of the two volumes of Thatcher's memoirs.