Margaret H. Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was the first woman to hold the position of Prime Minster of Britain. She was also the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom, and the first of only four women to hold any of the four offices of state.

Iron Lady is a nickname often used to describe female heads of government and obviously describes a strong-willed woman.  In 1976 this label was applied to Margaret Thatch , by the Soviet  media for her firm opposition to Communism. The UK National Archives has made available for the first time the official papers of Margaret Thatcher.

“The National Archives has published online for the first time the official papers of one of Britain’s most iconic political figures. From today, the prime ministerial files of Margaret Thatcher’s first year in power can be searched for free.

To coincide with the 20th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s resignation from Number 10, over 100 records from The Prime Minister’s Office (PREM files) have been newly digitised in a joint project by The National Archives and The Margaret Thatcher Foundation. The files, dating from May until December 1979, have been transcribed using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to allow the records to be fully searchable by keyword.

‘Unique insight’ into time in power

The records show the huge range of subjects that dominated the business of government at the time, including the civil service, the Commonwealth, defence, economic policy, foreign policy, home affairs, industrial policy, the National Health Service, trade, transport and many more.

Stephen Twigge, Head of Modern Domestic, Diplomatic and Colonial Records at The National Archives, said: ‘This series provides a unique insight into Thatcher’s style of premiership in what is considered to be a significant year in modern history. By improving the accessibility and search potential of these valuable records, interesting nuggets and gems of information may be uncovered or revealed in the files, which may previously have been overlooked.’

Prime Minister’s own hand

He went on to say that the records ‘often include comments written in the Prime Minister’s own hand, which can be very revealing about her reactions to memoranda and letters, giving insights into her whole approach to the job, her personal style and aspects of personality – mood and temperament.’

One such example is a draft paper for Cabinet by the Lord President Christopher Soames, where we see comments handwritten by Margaret Thatcher in the margins. When Lord Soames suggests some minor exceptions to a ban on civil service recruitment, the Prime Minister simply and emphatically writes ‘No’.

The National Archives hopes to digitise further releases of records once they have been opened under the 30 year rule.

View the files for free at DocumentsOnline.”

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