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 release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selectionssort descending
PREM19/450 Egypt (Visit to UK by President Sadat, August 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Feb 25 1981 Aug 10 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 107
PREM19/451 Egypt (Visits to UK by Vice President Mubarak in June 1979, May 1980 and September 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) 1979 May 29 1980 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 156
PREM19/452 Energy (Mossmorran ethylene cracker project: possibility of Government assistance) 1981 May 21 1981 Aug 17 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/453 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC); Petroleum and Continental Shelf Bill; Clyde oil field development) (Part 4) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Dec 22 2011 Dec 30 Secret 214
PREM19/454 Energy (Proposal for North Sea gas gathering pipeline) 1979 Jul 2 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 243
PREM19/455 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 7) 1980 Dec 2 1981 Mar 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 161
PREM19/456 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 8) 1981 Apr 1 1981 Nov 19 2011 Dec 30 Secret 248
PREM19/457 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 10) 1980 Sep 23 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 191
PREM19/458 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 11) 1981 Mar 4 1981 Sep 24 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 114
PREM19/459 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 12) 1981 Oct 9 1981 Dec 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 188
PREM19/460 European policy (Report by the 'Three Wise Men' on European Community institutions) 1979 Mar 13 1981 Jun 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/461 European policy (European Council meeting in Maastricht, Netherlands, March 1981) (Part 6) 1981 Feb 24 1981 Apr 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 85
PREM19/462 European policy (European Council meeting in Luxembourg, June 1981) (Part 7) 1981 May 21 1981 Jul 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 216
PREM19/463 European policy (European Council meeting in London, November 1981) (Part 8) 1981 Oct 13 1981 Nov 24 2011 Dec 30 Secret 250
PREM19/464 European policy (European Council meeting in London, November 1981) (Part 9) 1981 Nov 25 1981 Dec 6 2011 Dec 30 1 Confidential 171

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