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
PREM19/698 Economic policy (International Meeting for Co-operation and Development (North/South Summit), Cancun, Mexico, October 1981; Brandt Commission) (Part 3) 1981 Sep 24 1981 Oct 20 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 128
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
PREM19/666 Cabinet (Cabinet committee structure and membership) (Part 1) 1979 May 6 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 144
PREM19/885 Prime Minister (Meeting with Allen Adams MP to discuss redundancies at J & P Coats (UK) Ltd mill at Paisley) 1981 Nov 24 1982 Jan 22 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 27
PREM19/759 Foreign policy (East/West relations; United States foreign policy) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 2 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 227
PREM19/637 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 26) 1982 Jun 19 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 212
PREM19/853 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 5) 1981 Dec 1 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 259
PREM19/730 Education (Policy on education expenditure; role of HM Inspectorate of Schools; management of higher education; computers in schools) (Part 1) 1979 May 25 1981 Mar 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 304
PREM19/947 Aerospace (Application by British Caledonian Airways to operate London-Los Angeles route) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Mar 11 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 18
PREM19/825 Legal procedure (European Court of Human Rights: British Rail closed shop case) 1979 Jun 19 1982 Jan 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 53
PREM19/699 Economic policy (International meeting for Co-operation and Development (North/South Summit), Cancun, Mexico, October 1981; Brandt Commission) (Part 4) 1981 Oct 21 1982 Jul 9 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 198
PREM19/793 Housing (Housing policy; Housing Act 1980; council house sales) (Part 2) 1980 Aug 1 1981 Sep 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 205
PREM19/667 Cabinet (Attendance at Cabinet and Cabinet Committee meetings) (Part 2) 1980 Dec 3 1982 Dec 16 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 32
PREM19/886 Prime Minister (Meeting with Sir Ernest Harrison, Chairman of Racal Electronics Ltd) 1981 Oct 30 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 19
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

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