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 release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selectionssort descending
PREM19/666 Cabinet (Cabinet committee structure and membership) (Part 1) 1979 May 6 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 144
PREM19/667 Cabinet (Attendance at Cabinet and Cabinet Committee meetings) (Part 2) 1980 Dec 3 1982 Dec 16 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 32
PREM19/668 Cameroon (Visit to UK by President Ahmadou Ahidjo, April 1982; meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Dec 1 1982 May 20 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 124
PREM19/669 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 4) 1981 Oct 26 1982 Feb 9 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 285
PREM19/670 China (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong & Japan, September 1982: briefing) (Part 1) 1982 May 6 1982 Sep 13 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 257
PREM19/671 Civil service (Dispersal programme) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 19 1982 Jun 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 244
PREM19/672 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 8) 1981 Nov 9 1982 Jan 13 2012 Dec 28 Secret 306
PREM19/673 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 9) 1982 Jan 4 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 271
PREM19/674 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 8 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 274
PREM19/675 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 11) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Jul 7 2012 Dec 28 Secret 172
PREM19/676 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 12) 1982 Jul 8 1982 Nov 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 93
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
PREM19/678 Civil service (BBC Radio 4 series on the Civil Service; participation by Ministers and senior officials) 1981 Feb 9 1982 Jul 5 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 32
PREM19/679 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 9) 1981 Sep 28 1982 May 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 226
PREM19/680 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 10) 1982 May 12 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 314

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