Archive

Large scale document archive

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the PM's files

Secret no more

 

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

Chancellor of the Exchequer's Private Office files, 1979-89

1979-89: Chancellor's Private Office files [links to hundreds of digitised files from the Chancellorships of Sir Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson]

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/186 Economic policy (Pay comparability and the future of the Standing Commission (Clegg Commission); Government response) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Sep 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 193
PREM19/532 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 7) 1981 Oct 1 1981 Nov 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 178
PREM19/764 Germany (Chancellor Schmidt's visit to the UK, March 1982: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Parts 4 & 5) 1982 Mar 1 1982 May 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 242
PREM19/1107 Prime Minister (Briefing for incoming Prime Minister from Cabinet Office, Prime Minister's Office and Civil Service Department, May 1979; post-election briefing, June 1983) 1979 Apr 6 1983 Jun 8 2013 Aug 1 Secret 162
PREM19/410 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: procedure; attendance; agenda) (Part 3) 1981 May 19 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Secret 200
PREM19/1619 Science and Technology (Annual Review of Government-funded Research and Development: maintaining the strength of the science base) (Part 2) 1984 Aug 2 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 359
PREM19/279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 5) 1979 Dec 5 1980 Mar 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/79 Ireland (Taoiseach's visits to UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 2 1979 Sep 6 2009 Dec 30 Secret 156
PREM19/626 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 15) 1982 May 8 1982 May 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 260
PREM19/500 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 5 1981 Jul 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/2466 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: progress on 'Action for Cities'; Teesside development initiative; access to Cabinet and Prime Minister's office papers by National Audit Office for study on urban regeneration; Cardiff Bay Barrage) (Part 14) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret
PREM19/735 Energy (Energy policy; nuclear power policy; fast reactor policy; Sizewell Inquiry; oil depletion policy) (Part 7) 1982 Jan 26 1982 Oct 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 255
PREM19/951 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 33) 1983 Mar 3 1983 Apr 30 2013 Aug 1 9 Secret 322
PREM19/2934 Defence (War widows' pensions) 1979 Nov 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30 Secret 97
PREM19/2434 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, and private visit to Dallas, October 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1987 Mar 1 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21 17 Secret 203

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