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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/940 United Nations (Visits to UK by Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1981 May 13 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 293
PREM19/779 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme 1982) (Part 12) 1982 Feb 19 1982 Nov 2 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 326
PREM19/657 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (Franks): documentation seen by PM, extracted from PREM19 files and copied to the Committee) (Part 2) 1982 Jan 7 1982 Apr 2 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 119
PREM19/625 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 14) 1982 May 6 1982 May 7 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 213
PREM19/879 Prime Minister (Meeting with delegation of Conservative Friends of Israel) 1980 May 1 1982 Jul 12 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 31
PREM19/718 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 20) 1982 Jul 15 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 255
PREM19/812 Iran (Visit to UK by Prince Reza Pahlavi) 1980 Mar 26 1980 Mar 28 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 8
PREM19/847 National health (Pay in the National Health Service (NHS); possibility of industrial action; strike by ambulance men) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1982 Aug 31 2012 Dec 28 Secret 109
PREM19/941 USA (Economic situation in the United States) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1981 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 275
PREM19/780 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); reorganisation of the central departments; creation of Management and Personnel Office (MPO); future of Efficiency Unit; policy advice for Prime Minister) (Part 5) 1981 Nov 4 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 303
PREM19/658 Argentina (The Falkland Islands Service held in St Paul's Cathedral on 26 July 1982) 1982 Jul 2 1992 Jul 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 36
PREM19/626 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 15) 1982 May 8 1982 May 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 260
PREM19/880 Prime Minister (Meeting with George Foulkes MP to discuss closure of Falmers factory in Patna, Scotland) 1981 Feb 16 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 94
PREM19/719 Economic policy (Future of index-linked public service pensions; Government response to Scott Inquiry into the Value of Pensions) (Part 3) 1981 Jul 14 1982 Jun 3 2012 Dec 28 Secret 206
PREM19/813 Iraq (Internal situation; Iran-Iraq War; defence issues in the Persian Gulf) (Part 2) 1980 Sep 30 1982 Jun 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Top Secret 317

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