Margaret Thatcher's private papers released at Churchill College

6 February 2010

In the fortnight preceding the 1979 election Margaret Thatcher had more than policy and publicity on her mind. A meal plan tucked into her pocket diary reveals that the Iron Lady dined on a high-protein diet which included whisky and 28 eggs per week. The regime is detailed in one of 25,000 papers from her private files released this week from the archives at Churchill College.

The content of the material is wide-ranging, offering a rare insight into life at No. 10. A menu kept as a memento from the White House reveals that in December 1979 Thatcher joined the US President for a four-course meal, which included pheasant and a selection of eight wines. Gifts to the Prime Minister are detailed in the papers too, including a lion skin rug from Hastings Banda.

The private papers also confirm Baroness Thatcher’s unwillingness to take a holiday and her reluctance to decline an invitation to any occasion, agreeing even to meet a Wakefield Scout group.

Also released at the Churchill Archives Centre were documents of the head of Thatcher’s Policy Unit, Sir John Hoskyns, and her press secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham.

Alongside the more personal papers are documents discussing domestic and foreign policy, expressing, for example, Thatcher’s disapproval of Eurocrats’ pay: “They are paid much too much – from our taxpayer’s money. It looks like a real gravy-train.”

Also released at the weekend were copies of all correspondence, written and by telephone, between Margaret Thatcher and other heads of state, including the congratulatory call she received from President Carter following her election victory, in which she commented that “the adrenalin is running so fast at the moment that I don’t need to rest.”

Such a degree of openness surrounding the career of a political leader is unprecedented.

Chris Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation told The Cambridge Student: “Without some degree of archive access the past is a matter of speculation, not all of it well-intentioned”, adding that Baroness Thatcher “has always been proud of her record politically. She is a very consistent person, frank and straightforward to an unusual degree among politicians. The papers help to show that what you saw was what you got”.