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
PREM19/506 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the 'Dirty Protest') (Part 5) 1981 Jul 3 1981 Aug 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 335
PREM19/507 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Charles Haughey); Anglo-Irish joint studies) (Part 3) 1980 Aug 11 1981 Mar 5 2011 Dec 30 Secret 275
PREM19/508 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Charles Haughey, Garret Fitzgerald); Anglo-Irish joint studies) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 11 1981 Oct 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 328
PREM19/509 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Garret Fitzgerald); Anglo-Irish Summit, November 1981) (Part 5) 1981 Oct 22 1981 Nov 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/510 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 20 1981 Nov 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret - UK eyes A 211
PREM19/511 Japan (Visit to UK by Japanese Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki, June 1981: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Apr 6 1981 Jul 13 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 119
PREM19/513 Kenya (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Dr Robert Ouko, May 1981: call on Prime Minister) 1981 Apr 21 1981 May 22 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 27
PREM19/514 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 4) 1980 Sep 29 1981 Jun 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/515 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 5) 1981 Jun 4 1981 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/516 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 11 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 108
PREM19/517 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 7) 1981 Nov 2 1981 Dec 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 134
PREM19/518 Local government (Pay of local authority manual workers; Fire Service dispute; industrial action in the water industry) (Part 1) 1980 Oct 23 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 171
PREM19/519 Local government (Possibility of an Accounts Commission for Local Government) 1979 Oct 31 1981 Jun 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 23
PREM19/520 Local government (Future of the City Corporation: correspondence with Sir Horace Cutler) 1981 Mar 26 1981 Jun 26 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 25
PREM19/521 Luxembourg (Visit to UK by Gaston Thorn (Foreign Minister of Luxembourg and President-designate of the European Commission), October 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1979 Jun 26 1981 Oct 14 2011 Dec 30 Secret 74

Pages