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
PREM19/563 Prime Minister (Meeting with Northern Group of Labour MPs regarding organisation of regional offices of Departments of Environment and Transport) 1980 Dec 17 1981 Jan 21 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/589 Security (Lord Kagan) 1980 Dec 15 1981 Apr 16 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 19
PREM19/503 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the 'Dirty Protest') (Part 2) 1980 Dec 13 1981 Apr 21 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 198
PREM19/1099 Parliament (Future of Concorde aircraft; financial aspects; discussions with French) 1980 Dec 12 1983 Mar 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 289
PREM19/734 Energy (Energy policy; nuclear power policy; fast reactor policy; Sizewell Inquiry; oil depletion policy; refinery and dispersal strategy; Select Committee report on nuclear power programme) (Part 6) 1980 Dec 11 1982 Jan 20 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 341
PREM19/1754 European Policy (Conservative European Reform Group (ERG): meetings with Prime Minister) 1980 Dec 11 1986 Apr 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1505 Foreign Policy (British policy in the Antarctic) 1980 Dec 5 1985 Aug 16 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 197
PREM19/1212 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 3) 1980 Dec 5 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 212
PREM19/548 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; the Iron and Steel Bill; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan) (Part 8) 1980 Dec 4 1981 Feb 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 155
PREM19/869 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions; Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay; report by Select Committee) (Part 4) 1980 Dec 3 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 165
PREM19/855 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding; British Shipbuilders strategy and financing; pay negotiations; privatisation) (Part 3) 1980 Dec 3 1982 Jul 16 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 132
PREM19/475 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD)) (Part 3) 1980 Dec 3 1981 Feb 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 253
PREM19/667 Cabinet (Attendance at Cabinet and Cabinet Committee meetings) (Part 2) 1980 Dec 3 1982 Dec 16 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 32
PREM19/455 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 7) 1980 Dec 2 1981 Mar 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 161
PREM19/1341 Peru (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Dr Manuel Ulloa Elias, January 1981; possible visit by Prime Minister Dr Schwalb) 1980 Dec 1 1984 Jun 18 2014 Jan 3 1 Confidential 104

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