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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3111 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the proceedings of the House of Commons) (Part 9) 1988 Dec 6 1990 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/558 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening of Parliament) (Part 3) 1980 Nov 18 1981 Oct 22 2011 Dec 30 17 Secret 191
PREM19/863 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening of Parliament) (Part 4) 1981 Oct 26 1982 Oct 26 Closed until 2023-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/1340 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening) (Part 5) 1982 Oct 27 1984 Oct 31 Retained Retained
PREM19/861 Parliament (Reform of the House of Lords) 1979 Oct 5 1982 Nov 17 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 211
PREM19/554 Parliament (Representation of the People Bill; disqualification of prisoners from election to parliament) 1981 May 14 1981 Jul 31 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 31
PREM19/867 Parliament (Succession to the Crown; Private Member's Bill) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Apr 16 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 47
PREM19/328 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 8 1980 Feb 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 243
PREM19/329 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 2) 1980 Feb 12 1980 Jul 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 194
PREM19/330 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 3) 1980 Jul 10 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 225
PREM19/1341 Peru (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Dr Manuel Ulloa Elias, January 1981; possible visit by Prime Minister Dr Schwalb) 1980 Dec 1 1984 Jun 18 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/870 Poland (Intelligence) 1982 Jan 8 1982 Feb 22 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/559 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 2) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/560 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Aug 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 293
PREM19/561 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland; state of emergency - martial law, December 1981) (Part 4) 1981 Aug 12 1981 Dec 18 2011 Dec 30 Secret 279

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