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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/1003 Economic policy (Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB): reports on salaries of senior civil servants, senior members of the armed services and judges; salaries of Members of Parliament) (Part 4) 1981 Nov 9 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 204
PREM19/1098 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; review of working of Departmental Select Committees; Select Committee inquiry into positive vetting; Select Committee interest in records of security and intelligence agencies) (Part 5) 1981 Sep 7 1983 Mar 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 261
PREM19/974 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: HARM/ALARM anti-radar missiles; rising cost of defence equipment; competition in defence procurement) (Part 1) 1983 Mar 29 1983 Nov 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 291
PREM19/1069 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 14) 1983 Aug 1 1983 Dec 13 2013 Aug 1 12 Secret 274
PREM19/1037 Germany (Chancellor Helmut Kohl's visits to the UK: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 7) 1982 Nov 29 1983 May 16 2013 Aug 1 Secret 357
PREM19/1132 Security (Workers Revolutionary Party; youth training centres) 1981 Mar 3 1983 Mar 7 2013 Aug 1 Secret 32
PREM19/1004 Economic policy (Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) papers on pensions) 1983 Mar 10 1983 Jul 29 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 93
PREM19/981 DISASTERS. Collapse of Norwegian oil rig 'Alexander Kielland' in North Sea: PM's message of condolence... 1980 Mar 28 1980 Aug 11 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 43
PREM19/1099 Parliament (Future of Concorde aircraft; financial aspects; discussions with French) 1980 Dec 12 1983 Mar 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 289
PREM19/975 Defence (Control of nuclear weapon systems deployed in UK: correspondence from David Owen) 1982 Dec 8 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 74
PREM19/1070 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach; Anglo-Irish Summit; Anglo-Irish joint studies) (Part 6) 1981 Nov 9 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Secret 396
PREM19/1038 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 2 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 315
PREM19/1133 Security (Possible steps to overcome the change of culture towards leaks of government documents) 1983 Jun 16 1983 Jun 18 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 5
PREM19/1005 Economic policy (Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976: exemption of Stock Exchange) 1979 May 30 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 190
PREM19/1100 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; cable expansion and broadcasting policy; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill) (Part 6) 1982 Oct 28 1983 Mar 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 284

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