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 Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/565 Prime Minister (Meeting with Jim Spicer MP on strategic importance of the Cape route; United Nations arms embargo against South Africa) 1981 Feb 2 1981 Mar 16 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret - Codeword 28
PREM19/4455 Spain (Visit by Spanish leader of the Opposition, Felipe Gonzalez and his successor, Jose Maria Aznar) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 2 1993 May 18 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/428 Economic policy (Policy towards the pay review bodies: Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB), Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB), Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB)) (Part 3) 1981 Feb 2 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 175
PREM19/445 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Ottawa) (Part 6) [Part 5 of this file has been destroyed] 1981 Feb 2 1981 Jul 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/799 India (UK/Indian relations) (Part 2) 1981 Jan 30 1982 Nov 19 2012 Dec 28 1 Confidential 269
PREM19/744 European policy (Visits to UK by Gaston Thorn, President of the European Commission, and Leo Tindemans, President of the Council of Ministers; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 29 1982 Sep 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 249
PREM19/823 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1982; proposed technology agreement) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 28 1982 Sep 20 2012 Dec 28 2 Confidential 368
PREM19/1355 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Paul Volcker, Chairman of US Federal Reserve) 1981 Jan 27 1984 Dec 13 2014 Jan 3 Secret 83
PREM19/493 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 5) 1981 Jan 22 1981 Oct 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 308
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
PREM19/510 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 20 1981 Nov 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret - UK eyes A 211
PREM19/528 Mexico (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Dr Jorge Castadena, March 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Jan 19 1981 May 21 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 24
PREM19/3219 Australia (Call on the Prime Minister by Bill Hayden, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, May 1984; meeting with John Howard, Leader of the Australian Opposition, July 1988) 1981 Jan 19 1991 Aug 14 2017 Jul 20 Secret 60
PREM19/1032 European policy (Prime Minister's meetings with European Commissioner Christopher Tugendhat, February 1981 and September 1983) 1981 Jan 16 1983 Sep 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 51
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

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