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 Begins Ends Date of releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/1105 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London; inclusion of representative of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 4 1983 Feb 28 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 309
PREM19/1076 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 5A) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Dec 4 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 220
PREM19/949 Agriculture (Role of Home Grown Cereals Authority; appointment of Chairman) 1983 Aug 16 1983 Nov 11 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 17
PREM19/1045 Government machinery (Future of Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS); CPRS work programme for 1982; Prime Minister's dissatisfaction with CPRS; abolition of CPRS) 1981 Dec 24 1983 Jul 25 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 238
PREM19/1011 Education (Wider parental choice; education vouchers) 1982 Nov 5 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 205
PREM19/1106 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London; inclusion of representative of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO); meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1983 Mar 2 1983 Mar 27 2013 Aug 1 Secret 176
PREM19/982 Economic policy (Abolition of Economic Planning Councils) 1979 Jul 17 1979 Jul 25 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 45
PREM19/1077 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 5B) 1983 Dec 4 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 234
PREM19/950 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 32) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Mar 2 2013 Aug 1 17 Secret 360
PREM19/1046 Government machinery (Unpublished reports by Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) on higher education, the black economy, unemployment and the state monopolies) 1982 Aug 26 1983 Jul 1 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 288
PREM19/1140 Soviet Union (Representations from Commander Anthony Courtney, former Conservative MP, about Soviet espionage activity in UK) 1980 Jan 8 1982 Dec 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 30
PREM19/1012 Education (Policy on education expenditure; raising standards in schools) (Part 3) 1982 Jul 5 1983 Dec 19 2013 Aug 1 Secret 348
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
PREM19/983 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 21) 1982 Oct 1 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/1078 Legal procedure (Contempt of Court Bill; traducing of third parties in judicial proceedings) 1979 Jul 19 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 24

Pages