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
PREM19/871 Poland (Internal situation; state of emergency - martial law) (Part 5) 1981 Dec 19 1982 Jan 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 305
PREM19/624 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 13) 1982 May 3 1982 May 5 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 303
PREM19/840 Memorials (Dedication of Defenders' Memorial in Westminster Abbey, March 1982; Dame Ruth King's initiative) 1981 Aug 21 1982 Mar 27 2012 Dec 28 1 Confidential 53
PREM19/717 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 19) 1982 Mar 12 1982 Jul 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 337
PREM19/933 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' threatened industrial action; contingency planning) (Part 4) 1982 May 10 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 283
PREM19/811 Industrial policy (Financial difficulties of Fodens Ltd, Sandbach: local employment consequences) 1979 Jul 10 1982 Feb 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Unclassified 57
PREM19/685 Defence (Supply of highly enriched uranium (HEU)) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 3 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 137
PREM19/904 Science and Technology (Presentation on information technology) 1982 Feb 18 1982 May 20 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 47
PREM19/778 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme 1982) (Part 11) 1982 Jan 11 1982 Feb 12 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 115
PREM19/656 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (Franks): documentation seen by PM, extracted from PREM19 files and copied to the Committee) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1981 Dec 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 131
PREM19/872 Poland (Internal situation; state of emergency - martial law; possible measures to be taken against Poland and Soviet Union) (Part 6) 1982 Jan 6 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 230
PREM19/625 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 14) 1982 May 6 1982 May 7 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 213
PREM19/841 Memorials (Holocaust Memorial; proposal from Board of Deputies of British Jews) 1980 Apr 24 1982 Feb 16 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 59
PREM19/718 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 20) 1982 Jul 15 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 255
PREM19/934 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' industrial action; contingency planning; McCarthy report on railway productivity and pay; rail fare increases) (Part 5) 1982 Jun 28 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 265

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