Releases of Margaret Thatcher’s personal papers

A summary of the opening of Margaret Thatcher’s papers by year of release:

1990 | 1989 | 1988 | 19871986 1985

 Acceptance in Lieu

 1984 1983 | 1982 1981 1980 1979

Further information

Release of MT’s personal papers for 1990:

Lady Thatcher’s personal and political papers for 1990 were opened on Monday 1 March 2020 at Churchill Archives Centre. Over 40,000 pages have been released. 1990 was the final year of Margaret Thatcher’s Premiership. Highlights of the previously unseen materials include:

  • Papers on the political turbulence following the Conservative defeat in the Mid-Staffordshire By Election in March 1990 from key advisors such as Tim Bell, John Wakeham and Bernard Ingham (the latter, not for the last time in the year, sending the PM a paper on improving presentation)
  • Items on Mrs Thatcher’s planned summer break to Aspen, Colorado, which coincided with the unexpected Iraqi invasion of Kuwait
  • Material on the aftermath of the murder of her former PPS Ian Gow, including defeat in the subsequent Eastbourne By-Election (which brought on a further note from Ingham on presentation. Nobody was to know but Mrs Thatcher had only a month left in power after receiving that note)
  • Papers relating to the UK joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism and the aftermath of the Rome European summit (culminating in Mrs Thatcher’s infamous “no, no, no” statement to Parliament)
  • Papers relating to the resignation of Nicholas Ridley (“a banana skin” to Charles Powell) and, more fatally, following the Rome summit, that of Sir Geoffrey Howe
  • After the Conservative leadership election, a detailed account of Mrs Thatcher’s final moments in power prepared by Andrew Turnbull, her Principal Private Secretary
  • The first tranches of a vast number of letters written to Mrs Thatcher after her resignation and some of her replies. The release includes the last letter she signed as Prime Minister. The recipient, Sir Bernard Ingham, was her longest serving aide. Uniquely, the letter is also signed by Denis Thatcher.
Extract from memo from Bernard Ingham to Thatcher

Extract from memo from Ingham to Thatcher, THCR 1/9/18A/14, 22 October 1990

Release of MT’s personal papers for 1989:

Lady Thatcher’s personal and political papers for 1989 were opened on Monday 11 March 2019 at Churchill Archives Centre. Over 40,000 pages have been released. 1989 was a year of political turbulence as the Thatcher government was confronted by a wide range of difficult issues. Highlights of the previously unseen materials include:

  • Papers on the domestic political problems of the community charge (the “poll tax”), as numbers became available for the first year’s charge in England and analysis showed there would be more losers than gainers.
  • Two key handwritten notes by Mrs Thatcher recording divisions at the heart of her Cabinet

Her notes on the “Madrid ambush” are the only record of a difficult private meeting where she was confronted by the Foreign Secretary (Sir Geoffrey Howe) and Chancellor (Nigel Lawson) who attempted to force her to state that Britain would join the Exchange Rate Mechanism at a European summit in Madrid. Howe and Lawson threatened to resign but stayed in post, leaving Thatcher bitterly angry at their behaviour;

Lawson did resign as Chancellor later in the year, along with Mrs Thatcher’s economic adviser Alan Walters. She wrote up a short personal memoir of this difficult day at the time of his resignation, adding further notes in 1992 at the time she was writing her memoirs.

  • 1989 was the centenary of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Mrs Thatcher was asked to named a train in their honour, the Avocet (although she hadn’t been the RSPB’s first choice: Joan Collins and Joanna Lumley had been approached but had turned the chance down.) Later in the year, she was invited to the RSPB’s HQ in Sandy, travelling there on the Avocet itself. There were excellent photos of her standing in the middle of a field looking through a giant pair of binoculars. In theory she was birdwatching, actually she was looking at the photographers. They didn’t miss the chance to photograph her.


Margaret Thatcher in a field, looking through binoculars

THCR/8/2/30, reproduced by kind permission of the family of Srdja Djukanovic

Release of MT’s personal papers for 1988:

Lady Thatcher’s personal and political papers for 1988 were opened on Monday 23 July 2018 at Churchill Archives Centre. Over 40,000 pages have been released. Highlights of the previously unseen materials include:


Detailed drafting and background papers relating to the Bruges speech.

Detailed drafting and background papers relating to the Bruges speech.

Detailed drafting and background papers relating to the Bruges speech, 1988.


Papers relating to Mrs Thatcher’s embrace of environmental policy and her warnings against the dangers of global warming in a remarkable speech to the Royal Society in September 1988. She also returned to these themes in her speech to the Conservative Party’s annual conference that year.

Materials on overseas trips undertaken by Mrs Thatcher in 1988, including her first trip to Poland and her final visit to see President Reagan in Washington DC. (Reagan had made his final visit to the UK as President earlier in the year).

Mrs Thatcher’s clothes diary for 1988 recording the often elaborate planning for the clothes she required for her domestic and overseas engagements.

A file highlighting the perils of organising a celebrity political reception at No 10 Downing Street. In the end, Denis Thatcher checked the suggested list of guests adding ticks, crosses and question marks against certain names. His favourite candidates were the comedian Eric Sykes (four ticks) and the presenter of the BBC TV’s golfing coverage Peter Alliss (three ticks).

Release of MT’s personal papers for 1987:

Lady Thatcher’s personal and political papers for 1987 were opened on Tuesday 10 October 2017 at Churchill Archives Centre. Around 50,000 pages have been released. Highlights of the previously unseen materials include:

  • Detailed planning papers ahead of the 1987 General Election, including material on the Conservative election manifesto and campaign.
  • Papers relating to preparations for Mrs Thatcher’s visit to the Soviet Union in March/April 1987 ahead of the  General Election campaign. The papers released include materials relating to a seminar of Soviet experts assembled  by Mrs Thatcher  and held at Chequers on 27 February 1987 and sketches of clothes for the visit made for the Prime Minister by Margaret King of Aquascutum.

Sketches of clothes made for Margaret Thatcher, 1987, reproduced by kind permission of Mrs Margaret King. THCR 1/10/116d.


As in previous years, key extracts are available on the website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

Thatcher Foundation

Release of MT’s personal papers for 1986

Lady Thatcher’s personal and political papers for 1986 were opened on Monday 23 January 2017 at Churchill Archives Centre. Around 40,000 pages have been released.

Highlights of the previously unseen materials include:

  • Papers on the dramatic unfolding of the Westland crisis in early 1986 which led to the resignation of Michael Heseltine, including the striking annotation by Mrs Thatcher on her notes of a crucial Cabinet meeting “End of discussion. M.H. resigned”.
  • Speech drafts revealing a new tone of “caring”, a word that appeared fourteen times in her Scottish conference speech in May and in a section of her main Party conference speech in October labelled “Conservatives Care”
  • Newly released political papers on the key foreign issues of the year, including the US bombing of Libya and the issue of sanctions on South Africa
  • The amusing saga of Mrs Thatcher’s test drive of a new Rover 800 car in Downing Street, including a tricky reversing manoeuvre

10 Downing Street headed paper

As in previous years, key extracts are available on the website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

Thatcher Foundation

Release of MT’s personal papers for 1985:

Lady Thatcher’s personal and political papers for 1985 were opened on Monday 12 October 2015 at Churchill Archives Centre. Around 43,000 pages have been released.

Highlights of the previously unseen materials include:

  • Papers on the end of the year-long miners’ strike.
  • Political papers revealing in close detail the concerns, challenges and crises faced by Mrs Thatcher during a year which marked her tenth anniversary as leader and the halfway point in her premiership.
  • An intriguing five page memo to the Prime Minister from her Press Secretary, Bernard Ingham, attempting to soften the image and rhetoric of the Iron Lady, warning that she had gained a public image as “hectoring, strident [and] bossy”.
Analysis by Bernard Ingham of public reaction to Margaret Thatcher, 1985. Reference: Thatcher Papers, THCR 5/1/4/101.

Analysis by Bernard Ingham of public reaction to Margaret Thatcher, 1985. Reference: Thatcher Papers, THCR 5/1/4/101.


  • A very full file on the mechanics of the Cabinet reshuffle of September 1985.
  • A clash between the Church of England and Downing Street over proposals to exclude the Prime Minister from the unveiling of the Falklands Memorial in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral. Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine unwisely allowed a letter to reach the Prime Minister showing him signing off on the agreement to hold the service without her. Mrs Thatcher’s annotated the letter: “Kindly ask the secretary of state to see me immediately” (the word ‘immediately’, just in case her displeasure was unclear, is underlined twice).

Key extracts are available on the website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

Thatcher Foundation

Baroness Thatcher’s personal papers are acquired for the nation:

On 18 June 2015 Arts Council England announced the acceptance in lieu of inheritance tax of papers from the estate of Baroness Thatcher, who was the longest serving British Prime Minster of the 20th century.

The papers accepted complement and complete the rich materials already gifted to the Nation. In 1997, just over six years after leaving office, Baroness Thatcher generously gifted the bulk of her personal and political files to the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust, stressing that she had always wanted her archive to stay in the United Kingdom and to be a resource for students and scholars. The collection, deposited at Churchill Archives Centre, contains material from her earliest life right the way through her time as an MP (1959–92), Conservative party leader (1975–90), Prime Minister (1979–90), and beyond. She kept possession of some key personal papers and of much post 1990 material which is now accepted in lieu and which completes the archive.

Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair, Arts Council England said:

“Whatever our politics we have to recognise Margaret Thatcher as a major historical figure. Her papers will now join those of Churchill and be available to scholars of the 20th century.”

The collection accepted in lieu of tax, contains her most personal papers including three handwritten personal memoirs by Margaret Thatcher relating to crucial episodes in her time as Prime Minister.

  • Of prime importance is her previously unpublished 128 page/17,000 word handwritten memoir of the Falklands War, written over Easter 1983, almost exactly a year after the Argentine invasion, probably the single most significant historical document Margaret Thatcher ever wrote. This memoir gives profound insights into her handling of the war, particularly her relationships with colleagues like Foreign Secretary Francis Pym, and allies, notably the United States. Her emotional reaction to events is also powerfully present.
  • A second previously unpublished memoir gives her personal account of the Fontainebleau European summit in June 1984 which finally settled the five year battle to reform the EC budget and “get her money back”.
  • A third tells of her visit to Moscow for the funeral of Soviet President Chernenko in March 1985, where she renewed her acquaintance with his successor – Mikhail Gorbachev.

Other significant items include:

  • The final draft of her remarks in Downing Street when she became Prime Minister in May 1979 – it seems she had planned to talk of the ‘song’ of St. Francis, perhaps because she herself was uneasy with the idea of a prayer.
  • The text from which she delivered her ‘Not for turning’ speech at the Oct 1980 Conservative Party Conference.
  • Many other personal papers on the Falklands, most of which have already been released within the archive – including Lord Carrington’s letter explaining his decision to resign as Foreign Secretary; her handwritten notes on conversations with Harold Macmillan, US Secretary of State Al Haig; reports from the Chief Whip on Conservative backbench doubts about the war.
  • Her engagement diaries for 1952-59, 1961-62 & 1964. In addition there is a quantity of personal and political papers she collected between 1979 and 1990.
First page of Margaret Thatcher's Falklands memoir.

The first page of Margaret Thatcher’s Falklands memoir.


Access to the papers accepted will follow existing arrangements for the core collection of the Thatcher papers held by the Churchill Archives Centre. The papers already donated by Margaret Thatcher are generally being opened in parallel with official material held at the UK’s National Archives. Currently the majority of papers up to the end of 1984 are available, subject only to occasional closures recommended by the Cabinet Secretary for sensitive official material and any closures necessary to comply with the Data Protection Act. Certain of the papers accepted (generally those dated before 1985) are already available at the Archives Centre and online on Thatcher Foundation’s website. Further materials will continue to be added to the website on their release.

Later materials accepted are still being sorted and catalogued but include significant materials relating to the 1990 Conservative Leadership election.

Churchill College is delighted that this material will be housed in the Churchill Archives Centre in perpetuity as part of her personal archive. Speaking on the news, Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives Centre said:

“The Churchill Archives Centre is delighted that this important material has been secured in perpetuity, and that it will form part of Lady Thatcher’s personal archive, sitting along side the papers that she donated during her lifetime. As the reaction to this news shows, there is huge research interest in her as a political figure and in the events of her life and premiership, and the material accepted today will inform further study, discussion and debate. It is an important part of the story of our recent past.”

The acceptance of Margaret Thatcher’s papers settled £1,013,250 of tax.

The relevant papers are freely available at the Churchill Archives Centre with selections online from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website.

Release of MT’s personal papers for 1984:

Note by Thatcher on “the enemy within”, 1984.


Lady Thatcher’s personal and political papers for 1984 were opened on Friday 3 October 2014 at Churchill Archives Centre. Around 40,000 pages have been released.

Highlights include:

  • Papers on the miners’ strike: the material being released is mainly personal and political, although there are copies of notes from Andrew Turnbull (a Private Secretary at No 10) and from John Redwood (Head of the PM’s Policy Unit). The release includes private messages from external figures such as David Hart and Jack Peel, from outside the No 10 machine. There is also political comment in the papers released on the handling of the strike by the National Coal Board and frustration at their supposed PR naivety.
    Much of the material on the miners’ strike relates to speeches delivered by Mrs Thatcher and there was interest in the changes in her tone as the strike developed. For example, in notes Mrs Thatcher drafted for her Welsh Conservative conference speech in June 1984 she was conciliatory, while in July she made a famous remark in a speech to the Conservative 1922 Committee (19 July 1984) when she referred to the “enemy within”.
  • Brighton bomb: there is a lot of preparatory material for the speech Mrs Thatcher would have given to the 1984 Conservative conference in October. It is now possible to compare the final drafts (political and rather combative) with the delivered version (more Prime Ministerial and softer in tone).
    There is also material on the more human aspects of the tragedy, including letters by the Prime Minister to her hairdresser cancelling an appointment in the aftermath of the bomb. Similarly, Denis Thatcher no longer needed a lift to Gatwick as the close of the conference. He had been due to go away on business.
    There was also interest in the shock the Prime Minister was experiencing after the tragedy, including advice from a family friend (Bill Deedes) and Mrs Thatcher’s own letter to a former Cabinet Minister (Lord Thorneycroft) on her realisation of what had happened.
  • Hong Kong: in the release are Margaret Thatcher’s annotated speech notes on the Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong in 1984. The papers also include notes for her by Percy Cradock, her special adviser on foreign policy issues.
  • Presentation of the Thatcher Rose: among the papers on the “high politics” of the year is a file on a “thorny” issue that cropped up in 1984. It concerned the presentation of a rose in honour of Mrs Thatcher on behalf of the German Central Horticultural Association, to mark German participation in the International Garden Festival in Liverpool in 1984. However, a Japanese rose breeder subsequently pointed out that they too had created a Thatcher Rose in 1978 and had the letter from her to prove it sent while she was Leader of the Opposition. A letter from Charles Powell, her Private Secretary for Overseas Affairs, to the Japanese rose breeder successfully calmed everything down.

Key extracts are available on the website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

Thatcher Foundation

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 subject
  • Intriguing notes on a thaw in East-West relations (before the era of Mr Gorbachev) and a “partly heretical” note sent from her personal adviser 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:

Names for Thatcher's War Cabinet during the Falklands

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 Secretary.
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.

Margaret Thatcher Foundation

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).

Thatcher's reaction on hearing of the Argentine surrender at the end of the Falklands War

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 by Ronald Reagan

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 appointments)
  • Her full correspondence with world leaders for 1979, including American President Carter and Soviet President Brezhnev
  • 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 in tandem.

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.

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 e-mail: