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
PREM19/824 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 16 1982 Jul 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 345
PREM19/1167 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 36) 1984 Jan 3 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 273
PREM19/9 Commonwealth (Lusaka Heads of Government Meeting) (CHOGM) (Part 1) 1979 May 18 1979 Jul 31 2009 Dec 30 3 Secret 201
PREM19/450 Egypt (Visit to UK by President Sadat, August 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Feb 25 1981 Aug 10 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 107
PREM19/792 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong: Prime Minister's visit to China; special briefing) 1982 Sep 6 1982 Sep 23 2012 Dec 28 Secret 317
PREM19/2580 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 40) 1988 Jul 5 1988 Dec 13 2016 Dec 30 Secret 361
PREM19/1008 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Williamsburg) (Part 12) 1983 Apr 25 1983 May 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 325
PREM19/419 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 14) 1981 Feb 17 1981 Sep 16 2011 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/760 France (Anglo-French relations; Prime Minister's meetings with President Giscard d'Estaing and President Mitterrand) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 15 1982 Mar 25 2012 Dec 28 6 Secret 268
PREM19/1445 Defence (Ballistic missile defence: United States Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI); UK participation in research programme) (Part 3) 1985 May 30 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 285
PREM19/291 Local Government (Waste in local authority expenditure) 1979 May 8 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 248
PREM19/638 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 27) 1982 Jun 27 1982 Jul 20 2012 Dec 28 6 Secret 251
PREM19/2336 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; Community Care Review) (Part 10) 1988 Feb 3 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 236
PREM19/166 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 9) 1980 Mar 3 1980 Jul 2 2010 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/512 Jordan (Visits to UK by King Hussein: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 301

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