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
PREM19/713 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 17) 1982 Jun 8 1982 Jul 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 343
PREM19/929 Trade (Difficulties of textile and clothing industries; closure of mills; low pay in the industry; policy on imports; quota issue) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 30 1982 Apr 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 207
PREM19/807 Industrial policy (UK newsprint production: closure of Bowater's mill at Ellesmere Port) 1980 Jul 28 1982 Dec 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 254
PREM19/681 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 11) 1982 Aug 2 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 181
PREM19/901 Saudi Arabia (Visit to UK by King Khalid of Saudi Arabia, June 1981: talks with Prime Minister) 1981 Mar 3 1981 Aug 3 2012 Dec 28 3 Confidential 145
PREM19/775 Government machinery (Customs facilities at Wick Airport) 1982 Apr 28 1982 Dec 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 75
PREM19/653 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 11) 1982 Oct 1 1982 Dec 23 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 146
PREM19/869 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions; Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay; report by Select Committee) (Part 4) 1980 Dec 3 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 165
PREM19/746 European policy (European Commission Directive under Article 90 of Treaty of Rome concerning transparency of financial relations between member states and public undertakings) 1980 Sep 10 1982 Sep 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 15
PREM19/621 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 23 1982 Apr 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 300
PREM19/837 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) Unemployment Study) (Part 6) 1981 Nov 2 1982 Mar 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 382
PREM19/714 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 18) 1982 Jul 19 1982 Oct 29 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 312
PREM19/930 Trade unions (Trade union education and training: continuance of government grant) 1979 Dec 13 1982 Mar 1 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 71
PREM19/808 Industrial policy (Financial difficulties of Massey Ferguson Ltd: industrial and employment consequences of collapse) 1979 Nov 8 1982 Oct 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 72
PREM19/682 Commonwealth (Heads of Government meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: records of meetings; Melbourne Declaration; communique) (Part 4) 1981 Sep 15 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 247

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