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
PREM19/936 Transport (Armitage Report on Lorries, People and the Environment; draft White Paper) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 197
PREM19/814 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 10) 1981 Aug 24 1982 Jan 27 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 262
PREM19/815 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 11) 1982 Feb 4 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 7 Secret 133
PREM19/689 Defence (Review of home defence) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 6 1982 Mar 3 2012 Dec 28 Secret 99
PREM19/782 Government machinery (Future of quangos; action following review by Sir Leo Pliatzky) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 24 1981 Feb 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 324
PREM19/876 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; British Telecom's financial position and prices; System X) (Part 4) 1982 Mar 22 1982 Jul 19 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 159
PREM19/750 European policy (European Council meeting in Brussels, March 1982: briefing papers) 1982 Mar 16 1982 Mar 26 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 208
PREM19/628 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 17) 1982 May 15 1982 May 17 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 153
PREM19/844 Ministers (Ministerial travel overseas: general policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 191
PREM19/721 Economic policy (Liaison Committee on presentation of government policies; guidance to Ministers and MPs) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 1 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240
PREM19/937 Transport (Fixed Channel Link (Channel Tunnel); economic considerations; discussions with French) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 24 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 207
PREM19/816 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 12) 1982 Jul 1 1982 Nov 12 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 181
PREM19/690 Defence (Defence sales; sale of HMS Invincible to Royal Australian Navy) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 15 1982 Nov 4 2012 Dec 28 Secret 276
PREM19/909 Soviet Union (Soviet General Staff Command exercise) 1982 Jun 24 1982 Jul 15 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 6
PREM19/783 Home affairs (Family Policy Group; renewing the values of society) 1982 May 26 1982 Oct 29 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 227

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