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
PREM19/511 Japan (Visit to UK by Japanese Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki, June 1981: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Apr 6 1981 Jul 13 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 119
PREM19/389 Agriculture (Liquid milk prices) 1979 May 16 1981 Mar 11 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 168
PREM19/604 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees; resettlement in the UK) (Part 3) 1979 Jul 17 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/482 Government machinery (Reactivation of Civil Contingencies Unit in Cabinet Office: review of contingency planning; proposed Central Press Unit; use of TAVR during industrial disputes) (Part 1) 1979 May 29 1981 Mar 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 70
PREM19/575 Qatar (North West Dome gas field; pipeline problems; role of World Bank) 1980 Dec 29 1981 Jun 25 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 48
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
PREM19/544 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: industrial energy pricing; future of British Gas Corporation's appliance retailing activity) (Part 5) 1981 Jun 5 1981 Oct 12 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 241
PREM19/419 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 14) 1981 Feb 17 1981 Sep 16 2011 Dec 30 Secret 173
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
PREM19/390 Arts and amenities (Export licence for Leicester Codex by Leonardo da Vinci, following purchase by Dr Armand Hammer) 1980 Oct 22 1981 Feb 11 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 39
PREM19/605 Zimbabwe (Request from Bishop Muzorewa for financial help with his security and education costs) 1981 Nov 3 1981 Dec 18 2011 Dec 30 1 Cabinet two - Top Secret 13
PREM19/483 Home affairs (Oil refineries in Canvey Island and Thurrock area: industrial hazards) 1979 Apr 11 1981 Mar 24 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 155
PREM19/576 Regional policy (Creation of Enterprise Zones; possible measures to assist Merseyside; Central Policy Review Staff report) (Part 3) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Jun 29 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 309
PREM19/451 Egypt (Visits to UK by Vice President Mubarak in June 1979, May 1980 and September 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) 1979 May 29 1980 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 156
PREM19/545 Nationalised industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 1) 1980 May 20 1981 Dec 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 223

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