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
PREM19/500 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 5 1981 Jul 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/593 Security (Leaks about Civil Contingencies Unit (CCU) to Peter Hennessy of 'The Times'; investigation) 1980 Jul 17 1981 Feb 19 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 36
PREM19/471 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Schmidt in Bonn, November 1980 and November 1981: Anglo-German Summits) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 4 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 338
PREM19/564 Prime Minister (Meeting with Gavin Strang MP to discuss redundancies at Bruntons of Musselburgh) 1981 Feb 16 1981 Mar 17 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/439 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 5) 1981 Feb 18 1981 Jul 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/532 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 7) 1981 Oct 1 1981 Nov 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 178
PREM19/410 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: procedure; attendance; agenda) (Part 3) 1981 May 19 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Secret 200
PREM19/501 Ireland (Prime Minister's meeting with widows from Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, July 1980) 1980 Jun 11 1981 Apr 24 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 62
PREM19/565 Prime Minister (Meeting with Jim Spicer MP on strategic importance of the Cape route; United Nations arms embargo against South Africa) 1981 Feb 2 1981 Mar 16 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret - Codeword 28
PREM19/440 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 7) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Mar 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/533 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 8) 1981 Nov 4 1981 Dec 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret 318
PREM19/411 Defence (Sale of tanks to Jordan; future tank policy; future of Vickers Ltd Elswick works) 1979 May 31 1981 Apr 1 2011 Dec 30 Secret 159
PREM19/502 Ireland (Meetings with Lord Brookeborough and Lord Moyola to discuss the security situation in Northern Ireland) 1980 May 8 1981 Feb 23 2011 Dec 30 2 Confidential 29
PREM19/595 Security (Leak to 'The Times' of Cabinet proceedings on public expenditure) 1981 Oct 21 1981 Oct 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 18
PREM19/473 Ghana (Visit to UK by President Limann, May 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Oct 21 1981 Jun 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 155

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