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 Endssort ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/971 Cyprus (Internal situation; UK/Cypriot relations) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 29 1983 Nov 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 355
PREM19/290 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Sep 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 205
PREM19/137 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Apr 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/3356 Germany ​​​​​​​(Rudolf Hess​​​​​​​) 1980 Feb 28 1991 Jun 11 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/224 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 6) 1980 Feb 26 1980 Mar 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 153
PREM19/140 Argentina (Visit to UK by Dr Martinez de Hoz, Minister of Economy, June 1980) 1980 Feb 26 1980 Jun 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 16
PREM19/367 Social Services (Taxation of short term benefits, supplementary benefits and strikers' benefits; financial treatment of strikers and their families) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 26 1980 Jul 1 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 111
PREM19/3690 Economic Policy (Remuneration of retail pharmacists: proposal for a review body​​​​​​​) 1980 Feb 22 1992 Nov 4 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/306 Nationalised Industries (Privatisation) (Part 2) 1980 Feb 21 1980 Oct 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 150
PREM19/1 Archives (Suez 1956 files) 1980 Feb 21 1986 Jun 30 2006 Dec 1 Confidential 36
PREM19/382 USA (Visit to UK by Major General George J Keegan Jr, US Air Force (retired), March 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Feb 20 1980 Jun 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/204 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 20 1980 May 7 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 207
PREM19/661 Arts and amenities (Royal Opera House development appeal; Prime Minister’s meeting with Lord Drogheda and Sir Claus Moser) 1980 Feb 18 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 3 Confidential 127
PREM19/345 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 15) 1980 Feb 16 1980 Feb 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 221
PREM19/310 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; pay negotiations; contingency planning) (Part 5) 1980 Feb 15 1980 Mar 12 2010 Dec 30 Secret 226

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