Margaret Thatcher opened her private archive in 2003, the first former Prime Minister to have done so during their lifetime. A selection of the best papers are available on-line at this site, while the original documents are deposited at Churchill College, Cambridge. Her official papers as Prime Minister - the most important of all her files - are stored separately at the National Archives in Kew and are going online on this site in their entirety.
Most documents are open up to the end of 1980. The huge photographic and press cutting collections are available without date restriction.
Catalogue & purchase of copies
There is a full description of the archive at the Churchill Archive Centre website and an on-line catalogue. There are more than a million documents, filling some 2,500 boxes, dating from MT's childhood to the present day. Some of the most important are available on this site, but necessarily it is a relatively small selection.
The Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust is digitising the great bulk of the Thatcher papers up to the end of 1990. Images from those parts of the collection open for research can usually be supplied as searchable PDF files from the Thatcher Archivist at the Churchill Archives Centre, subject to UK copyright law.
From MT's earliest years as a child in Grantham the archive includes a number of school exercise books, which probably survive because her father wrote sermon notes in unused pages at the back.There is MT's annotated copy of the Methodist Catechism and an even more closely marked copy of the 1944 Employment White Paper.
Her earliest political papers date from January 1949 when she became Conservative candidate for Dartford, a happy and fruitful time in her life during which she met her husband and began many political friendships. There is a copy of her "Candidate's File" - the file held on her by Conservative Central Office - which includes many letters from the mid-50s when she was unsuccessfully hunting for a winnable Conservative seat and momentarily thought of giving up politics for law.
Her appointment diaries survive from 1962 onwards, allowing us to reconstruct how she spent much of her time. Comparatively little survives from her political work in the 1960s, as a junior minister (1961-64) and Opposition spokesman (1964-70). She kept no diary and like most of her contemporaries transacted a lot of business by phone or face to face.
In office as Secretary of State for Education and Science (1970-74), her papers were in the care of the government, but most were destroyed by officials. (Some that escaped the Whitehall rubbish bin can be found on this site.) Only fragments from this period survive in her private archive.
There are important files, however, from 1974-75, when she returned to Opposition and successfully ran for election as leader of the Conservative Party.
MT's papers as Leader of the Opposition were professionally filed and probably survive pretty much as they were when put into storage at Central Office in 1979. (There are no strictly personal papers for these years, however; they may have been lost or destroyed.)
Shadow Cabinet minutes and papers survive in full and are published here for the first time, also in full.
There are a mass of briefing documents, speech drafts and general correspondence, including documents relating to "Stepping Stones", a highly secret initiative from 1977-79 to shift the party's policies on union reform and make it more fit for government.
There is the only known surviving copy of the unused Conservative manifesto of summer 1978.
1979-90 (& since 1990)
Most documents in the Thatcher Archive dated after 31 December 1981 are closed for the present, as are the official files at Kew.
Press cuttings (1949-80) and photographs are open for study, and many White House official photographs are available on the site.