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
PREM19/526 Manpower (Measures against unemployment; youth training; Young Workers Scheme; unemployment and early retirement) (Part 5) 1981 Jul 13 1981 Oct 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 249
PREM19/404 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; establishment of independent inquiry) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 10 1981 Nov 5 2011 Dec 30 Secret 347
PREM19/497 Iraq (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister Dr Saadoun Hammadi, March 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Nov 13 1981 Mar 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 35
PREM19/587 Security (Proposed BBC Panorama programme on British intelligence services) 1980 Jun 18 1981 Feb 3 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 58
PREM19/466 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 4) 1980 Sep 4 1981 Sep 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256
PREM19/559 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 2) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/434 Economic policy (Correspondence with Armand Hammer, chairman of Occidental Petroleum; meetings with Prime Minister; proposals for a polyethylene plant in Scotland; export licence for Leicester Codex) 1980 Sep 2 1981 Aug 4 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 157
PREM19/527 Manpower (Housing policy and labour mobility: National Mobility Scheme) 1980 Jul 7 1981 Jul 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 56
PREM19/405 Civil service (Cynon Valley Borough Council dispute with Welsh Office over allocation of funds for highway maintenance) 1981 Feb 9 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 24
PREM19/498 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; force levels) (Part 8) 1980 Aug 12 1981 Feb 25 2011 Dec 30 1 Top Secret - UK eyes A 224
PREM19/589 Security (Lord Kagan) 1980 Dec 15 1981 Apr 16 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 19
PREM19/467 Foreign policy (Prime Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia & the Gulf States, April 1981) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 8 1981 Apr 13 2011 Dec 30 3 Confidential 201
PREM19/560 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Aug 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 293
PREM19/435 Economic policy (Brandt Commission; relations with developing countries; North/South Dialogue; Cancun Summit, Mexico) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 12 1981 Sep 24 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 263
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

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