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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/626 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 15) 1982 May 8 1982 May 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 260
PREM19/500 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 5 1981 Jul 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/156 Commonwealth (Five Power Defence Arrangements: joint exercises; proposal from Prime Minister of Australia) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 11 1980 Oct 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/719 Economic policy (Future of index-linked public service pensions; Government response to Scott Inquiry into the Value of Pensions) (Part 3) 1981 Jul 14 1982 Jun 3 2012 Dec 28 Secret 206
PREM19/2102 Economic Policy (Policy towards privatisation; disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 16) 1987 Apr 1 1988 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30 Secret 333
PREM19/1156 India (Visit to UK by Narasimha Rao, Indian Minister of External Affairs, November 1983: meeting with Prime Minister) 1983 Aug 22 1983 Nov 7 2013 Aug 1 Secret 112
PREM19/1498 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) (Part 2) 1985 Apr 5 1985 Jul 27 2014 Dec 30 2 Secret 367
PREM19/687 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 2 1982 Feb 12 2012 Dec 28 Secret 219
PREM19/218 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 6) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Nov 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 207
PREM19/906 Security (Case of Professor Hugh Hambleton, Canadian citizen and self-confessed Soviet spy) 1980 Jun 26 1982 Dec 7 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 53
PREM19/439 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 5) 1981 Feb 18 1981 Jul 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/780 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); reorganisation of the central departments; creation of Management and Personnel Office (MPO); future of Efficiency Unit; policy advice for Prime Minister) (Part 5) 1981 Nov 4 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 303
PREM19/1123 Royal family (Royal visits by Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, USA, and Canada [also Belize] February-March 1983) 1982 Jun 4 1983 Jan 31 2014 Feb 14 5 Secret 46
PREM19/1689 Defence (Development of torpedoes) 1979 Jul 20 1986 Dec 23 2014 Dec 30 Secret 111
PREM19/311 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation (BSC); industrial action by steel unions; Lord Lever’s inquiry and recommendations for settlement accepted by BSC and Steel Union) (Part 6) 1980 Mar 12 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 228

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