Thatcher and Carter: the not-so special relationship

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Newly released documents from Margaret Thatcher's first year in office reveal her widespread distrust of the Establishment - especially the BBC - and her growing impatience with the Carter administration

"Would you accept the Republican nomination for President in 1980?" Margaret Thatcher was asked at a Foreign Policy Association lunch in New York on December 18, 1979.

The scribbled note, from an anonymous doting American, is just one of many documents released last week at the Churchill Archive Centre in Cambridge. It indicates how, even within the first few months of her election, Thatcher had established a reputation in the United States as a staunch Right-winger.

The note is part of the first annual tranche of documents that will form the most accessible and complete record of any Prime Minister in British history, penetrating as never before the personal, party and press domains of No 10.

The documents are all being digitised, and many thousands from Cambridge, and the National Archives in Kew, are going online at the Thatcher Foundation's website. They contain many juicy titbits that delighted the media last weekend, notably her diet in the run-up to the 1979 general election, consisting of up to 28 eggs a week. But does this new online cornucopia offer us genuine meat?

The year 1979 was pivotal in post-war British history. It saw a tired and defeated Labour government swept from power, to be replaced by a Conservative administration led by the country's first female Prime Minister, who despite having led the Conservative Party for four years, was still largely unknown. Do the documents so far released allow us to form a rounder picture of the most formidable peacetime Prime Minister Britain has seen in the past hundred years?

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