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
PREM19/868 Parliament (Parliamentary discussion of intelligence matters) 1982 Dec 15 1982 Dec 23 2013 Sep 24 Secret 10
PREM19/1058 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 9) 1983 Oct 1 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 1 Top Secret 322
PREM19/1152 USA (United States foreign policy; nuclear non-proliferation) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 21 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Secret 339
PREM19/1026 European policy (European Council meeting, Athens, December 1983: briefing papers) (Part 13A) 1983 Nov 8 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 345
PREM19/995 Economic policy (Liaison Committee on presentation of government policies; nuclear opinion poll; guidance to Ministers and MPs) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 1 1984 Oct 8 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 322
PREM19/1087 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 22 1983 Jan 31 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 353
PREM19/963 China (Sino/British relations; defence sales) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 341
PREM19/1059 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 10) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 412
PREM19/1153 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, September 1983) (Part 3) 1983 Aug 31 1983 Oct 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 198
PREM19/1027 European policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, March 1983) (Part 15) 1983 Feb 7 1983 Mar 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 228
PREM19/1120 Royal family (Queen Mother's visits to Northern Ireland, April 1982 and June 1983) 1982 Apr 20 1983 Jun 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 8
PREM19/996 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 9) 1982 Oct 19 1983 Jan 31 2013 Aug 1 Secret 280
PREM19/1088 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 11) 1983 Feb 3 1983 Dec 28 2013 Aug 1 Secret 388
PREM19/964 Civil service (Manpower reductions in the Cabinet Office) 1979 Jul 20 1983 May 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 59
PREM19/1060 India (Orissa steel plant) 1982 Jan 11 1983 Aug 5 2013 Aug 1 Secret 106

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