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
PREM19/910 Security (Publication of book by Gordon Welchman (former head of Hut 6) called 'The Hut Six Story' on wartime German Enigma cryptanalysis: reactions of US and UK governments) 1982 Apr 30 1982 Jul 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 8
PREM19/784 Home affairs (Penlee lifeboat disaster fund; guidance for organisers of disaster appeals) 1981 Dec 22 1982 Mar 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 43
PREM19/662 Broadcasting (Study of impact of television on schoolchildren) 1982 Jan 8 1982 Dec 13 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 100
PREM19/878 Prime Minister (Communications with Jimmy Savile concerning tax deductions for charitable donations following his fund raising for Stoke Mandeville hospital) 1980 Feb 5 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 4 Secret 22
PREM19/752 European policy (European Council meeting in Brussels, June 1982: briefing papers) 1982 Jun 15 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 202
PREM19/630 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 19) 1982 Apr 22 1982 May 24 2012 Dec 28 Secret 131
PREM19/846 Ministers (Request for release of 1957 report on the burden on Ministers) 1982 Jul 19 1982 Aug 11 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 18
PREM19/723 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Versailles) (Part 7) 1982 Mar 4 1982 Jun 2 2012 Dec 28 Secret 214
PREM19/939 United Nations (Election of United Nations Secretary-General) 1981 May 5 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 106
PREM19/818 Ireland (Security of the Northern Ireland border) 1979 Sep 6 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 3 Top Secret - Cabinet 2 16
PREM19/692 Defence (Armed forces' pay; service medical and dental officers' pay) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 244
PREM19/785 Hong Kong (UK trade with China; power projects in Hong Kong and China involving UK companies) (Part 2) 1981 Jan 5 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Secret 261
PREM19/663 Broadcasting (BBC TV programme about handling of information by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and media during the Falklands crisis; Prime Minister’s directive that no Ministers or officials should take part) 1982 Aug 6 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 4
PREM19/879 Prime Minister (Meeting with delegation of Conservative Friends of Israel) 1980 May 1 1982 Jul 12 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 31
PREM19/753 European policy (European Council meeting, Luxembourg, April 1980: briefing papers) 1980 Apr 10 1982 Apr 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 324

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