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
PREM19/826 Legal procedure (UK Bill of Rights; Lord Wade's Bill) 1979 Dec 11 1982 Mar 31 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 56
PREM19/623 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 12) 1982 Apr 30 1982 May 2 2012 Dec 28 Secret 231
PREM19/700 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 4 1982 Jan 28 2012 Dec 28 Secret 108
PREM19/794 Housing (Housing policy; Housing Act 1980; council house sales) (Part 3) 1981 Oct 27 1982 Dec 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 143
PREM19/668 Cameroon (Visit to UK by President Ahmadou Ahidjo, April 1982; meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Dec 1 1982 May 20 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 124
PREM19/887 Prime Minister (Meeting with Albert Booth MP to discuss closure of Derwest Jennings factory in Barrow-in-Furness) 1982 Feb 2 1982 Jul 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 30
PREM19/761 France (Internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 12 1982 Jan 25 2012 Dec 28 2 Confidential 335
PREM19/856 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan; United States action against European Community steel imports; third country imports) (Part 11) 1982 Jan 14 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 150
PREM19/656 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (Franks): documentation seen by PM, extracted from PREM19 files and copied to the Committee) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1981 Dec 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 131
PREM19/733 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 3 1982 Mar 31 2012 Dec 28 Secret 200
PREM19/827 Legal procedure (Law on homosexual offences in Northern Ireland; judgement of European Court of Human Rights) 1980 May 29 1982 Mar 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 42
PREM19/624 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 13) 1982 May 3 1982 May 5 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 303
PREM19/701 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 7) 1982 Jan 30 1982 Apr 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 189
PREM19/917 Security (Security at GCHQ: representations from Nicholas Edwards MP; untimely deaths of two GCHQ employees (Jack Wolfenden in an aircraft accident) and Ernest Peter Brockway (suspected suicide); question of a 'radio ham' who lived for 11 years with a translator at GCHQ) 1982 Nov 23 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 16
PREM19/795 Housing (Review of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977) 1980 Jul 16 1982 Apr 7 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 50

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