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
PREM19/522 Malta (Visits to UK by Dr Edward Fenech Adami, leader of Maltese opposition Nationalist Party, November 1979 and June 1981: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 Oct 12 1981 Jun 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 27
PREM19/523 Manpower (Special employment measures; industrial training; youth unemployment) (Part 2) 1980 Oct 21 1981 Jan 30 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 152
PREM19/524 Manpower (Unemployment and young people; industrial training) (Part 3) 1981 Feb 3 1981 Mar 26 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 57
PREM19/525 Manpower (Unemployment and young people; industrial training; Employment and Training Bill - Enterprise Zones; measures against unemployment) (Part 4) 1981 Apr 3 1981 Jul 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 242
PREM19/526 Manpower (Measures against unemployment; youth training; Young Workers Scheme; unemployment and early retirement) (Part 5) 1981 Jul 13 1981 Oct 31 2011 Dec 30 Secret 249
PREM19/527 Manpower (Housing policy and labour mobility: National Mobility Scheme) 1980 Jul 7 1981 Jul 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 56
PREM19/528 Mexico (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Dr Jorge Castadena, March 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Jan 19 1981 May 21 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 24
PREM19/529 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 6 1981 Mar 31 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 209
PREM19/530 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 5) 1980 Sep 1 1981 Apr 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 370
PREM19/531 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 6) 1981 May 1 1981 Sep 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 340
PREM19/532 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 7) 1981 Oct 1 1981 Nov 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 178
PREM19/533 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 8) 1981 Nov 4 1981 Dec 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret 318
PREM19/534 Middle East (Arab ambassadors' dinner, July 1981: invitation declined by PM as PLO representative would be present) 1981 Feb 23 1981 Jul 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 30
PREM19/535 Middle East (Prime Minister's visits to Kuwait and Bahrain, September 1981: meetings with Rulers and Ministers) 1981 Apr 15 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 151
PREM19/536 Ministers (Rules governing travel by Ministers and their families: charging for Royal Air Force aircraft) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1981 Nov 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 196

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