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
PREM19/988 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 6) 1982 Jul 26 1983 Jan 18 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 268
PREM19/1083 Local government (Industrial action in water industry; contingency planning) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 13 1983 Feb 8 2013 Aug 1 Secret 240
PREM19/956 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks): general correspondence) (Part 4) 1983 Jan 19 1983 May 6 2013 Aug 1 Secret 229
PREM19/867 Parliament (Succession to the Crown; Private Member's Bill) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Apr 16 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 47
PREM19/945 Vatican (Vatican delegation to Heads of State about nuclear weapons; meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Jan 29 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 59
PREM19/669 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 4) 1981 Oct 26 1982 Feb 9 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 285
PREM19/709 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 13) 1982 Jan 11 1982 Feb 19 2012 Dec 28 Secret 296
PREM19/925 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit restrictions; United States sanctions against Siberian pipeline - impact on John Brown Engineering and other European companies; controls on strategic exports) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 19 1982 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 276
PREM19/803 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 6) 1981 Nov 1 1982 Jul 29 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 326
PREM19/677 Civil service (Lecture by Sir Douglas Wass on 'The Public Service in Modern Society': draft sent to MT) 1982 Nov 26 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 10
PREM19/896 Rhodesia (Sir Roy Welensky, former Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland) 1979 Oct 31 1982 Oct 28 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 61
PREM19/770 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 11 1982 Oct 28 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 189
PREM19/648 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 6) 1982 May 15 1982 May 20 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 172
PREM19/864 Parliament (Legislative programme 1981-1982 and 1982-1983) (Part 8) 1981 Jul 30 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 2 Confidential 178
PREM19/741 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 17) 1982 Jul 1 1982 Jul 22 2012 Dec 28 2 Confidential 156

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