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.

 

File name Title Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/1085 Local government (Water charges: Prime Minister's interest in measures to control rate of increase) 1981 Feb 13 1983 Apr 12 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 36
PREM19/566 Prime Minister (Meeting with David Watkins MP to discuss closure of Consett steelworks) 1981 Feb 12 1981 Mar 13 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/582 Royal family (Duke of Edinburgh's statement on nuclear war: correspondence between the Duke and Fenner Brockway, Lord Brockway) 1981 Feb 12 1981 Apr 9 2015 Apr 22 16 Unclassified 34
PREM19/3588 USA ​​​​​​​(Visit of William Casey, Director of Central Intelligence in Washington, and his successors)​​​​​​​ 1981 Feb 12 1991 Nov 25 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1434 Defence (Higher defence organisation: Ministerial responsibilities; Management Information System for Ministers (MINIS)) 1981 Feb 10 1982 Jul 22 2014 Dec 30 1 Confidential 43
PREM19/405 Civil service (Cynon Valley Borough Council dispute with Welsh Office over allocation of funds for highway maintenance) 1981 Feb 9 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 24
PREM19/678 Civil service (BBC Radio 4 series on the Civil Service; participation by Ministers and senior officials) 1981 Feb 9 1982 Jul 5 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 32
PREM19/574 Prime Minister (Meeting with Dale Campbell-Savours MP regarding closure of Distington Foundry) 1981 Feb 9 1981 Apr 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 198
PREM19/467 Foreign policy (Prime Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia & the Gulf States, April 1981) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 8 1981 Apr 13 2011 Dec 30 3 Confidential 201
PREM19/913 Security (Labour Party discussion document on the Security Services) 1981 Feb 6 1982 Feb 28 2012 Dec 28 Secret 13
PREM19/745 European policy (UK Presidency of the European Community, July-December 1981; publicity) 1981 Feb 6 1982 Jan 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 149
PREM19/500 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 5 1981 Jul 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/3104 Norway (Internal situation; relations with UK) 1981 Feb 3 1990 May 30 2017 Jul 20 1 Confidential 277
PREM19/524 Manpower (Unemployment and young people; industrial training) (Part 3) 1981 Feb 3 1981 Mar 26 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 57
PREM19/565 Prime Minister (Meeting with Jim Spicer MP on strategic importance of the Cape route; United Nations arms embargo against South Africa) 1981 Feb 2 1981 Mar 16 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret - Codeword 28

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