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
PREM19/847 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
PREM19/725 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Versailles) (Part 9) 1982 Jun 6 1982 Jul 12 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 230
PREM19/941 USA (Economic situation in the United States) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1981 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 275
PREM19/693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 3) 1979 Sep 3 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 258
PREM19/786 Hong Kong (Prime Minister's meetings with Sir Yue-Kong Pao, Chairman of World-wide Shipping Group) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1982 Jan 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 164
PREM19/664 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and broadcasting policy) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 16 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 143
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
PREM19/754 European policy (European Council meeting, Venice, June 1980: briefing papers) 1980 Jun 3 1980 Jun 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 754
PREM19/632 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 21) 1982 May 28 1982 May 31 2012 Dec 28 Secret 162
PREM19/848 National health (Nurses' and midwives' pay; report of Standing Commission on Pay Comparability (Clegg report)) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 17 1982 Jan 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 201
PREM19/726 Economic policy (Premature disclosure of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) economic forecast data concerning the UK; Prime Minister's protest) 1980 Dec 22 1982 Mar 17 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 30
PREM19/942 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 21 1982 Apr 30 2012 Dec 28 14 Confidential 256
PREM19/694 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 4) 1981 Nov 17 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 154
PREM19/913 Security (Labour Party discussion document on the Security Services) 1981 Feb 6 1982 Feb 28 2012 Dec 28 Secret 13
PREM19/788 Hong Kong (Prime Minister's visit to Hong Kong, September 1982: policy) 1982 Jul 20 1982 Oct 4 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 236

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