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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/892 Prime Minister (Meeting with George Turnbull and Anthony Fraser, President and Chairman of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Association, on problems of the UK motor industry) 1982 Oct 15 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 22
PREM19/568 Prime Minister (Meeting with Harry Cowans MP regarding threatened closure of Vickers Ltd Elswick works) 1981 May 20 1981 Jul 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 19
PREM19/1108 Prime Minister (Meeting with Hector Monro, Minister for Sport at Department of the Environment: soccer hooliganism; Gleneagles Agreement and the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)) 1981 May 1 1983 Jul 12 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 12
PREM19/891 Prime Minister (Meeting with Hong Kong Association members) 1982 Aug 20 1982 Sep 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 28
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
PREM19/571 Prime Minister (Meeting with John Carlisle MP to discuss sporting contacts with South Africa) 1981 Sep 7 1981 Sep 17 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 19
PREM19/1895 Prime Minister (Meeting with John Marek MP to discuss proposed closure by Courtaulds of Wrexham dicell acetate yarn manufacturing plant) 1985 Apr 24 1986 Jun 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/889 Prime Minister (Meeting with John Opel, President of International Business Machines (IBM), concerning investment in the UK) 1982 May 21 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 28
PREM19/573 Prime Minister (Meeting with Lawrence Cunliffe MP about possible closure of David Brown Tractors Ltd and unemployment in Leigh) 1981 Oct 28 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/1897 Prime Minister (Meeting with members of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee) 1986 Jul 15 1986 Aug 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1902 Prime Minister (Meeting with Neville Trotter MP about Swan Hunter shipyard) 1986 Feb 27 1986 Mar 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/563 Prime Minister (Meeting with Northern Group of Labour MPs regarding organisation of regional offices of Departments of Environment and Transport) 1980 Dec 17 1981 Jan 21 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/569 Prime Minister (Meeting with Peter Fry MP to discuss closure of Wellingborough Foundry; UK footwear and clothing industries) 1981 May 15 1981 Dec 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 37
PREM19/890 Prime Minister (Meeting with Robert Adley MP to discuss Prime Minister's visit to Far East) 1982 Jul 15 1982 Sep 15 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 23
PREM19/1894 Prime Minister (Meeting with Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and Tom Clarke MP to discuss future of Ravenscraig and Gartcosh steel mills) 1985 Jul 19 1986 Jan 29 2016 Feb 19

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