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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/183 Economic policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with Gordon Pepper) (Part 1) 1979 May 16 1980 Mar 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 202
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
PREM19/1405 USA (Internal political situation; 1980 and 1984 Presidential election campaigns) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1984 Nov 7 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 457
PREM19/407 Civil service (Pay of professional, technological and scientific grades: possibility of industrial action; review of Scientific Civil Service) 1979 Jun 15 1981 Jul 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 282
PREM19/1626 Security (Leak of information on sinking of Argentine warship General Belgrano in 1982 to Tam Dalyell MP: confession and trial of Clive Ponting) (Part 1) 1984 Aug 10 1985 Feb 2 2014 Dec 30 Secret 294
PREM19/1011 Education (Wider parental choice; education vouchers) 1982 Nov 5 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 205
PREM19/276 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; US mission to release hostages; sanctions) (Part 6) 1980 Apr 9 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/21 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 4) 1979 Sep 6 1979 Sep 28 2009 Dec 30 Secret 106
PREM19/1157 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment) (Part 8) 1982 Sep 6 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 294
PREM19/1499 Foreign Policy (Briefing for Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) 1985 Apr 4 1985 Apr 13 2014 Dec 30 Secret 318
PREM19/153 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: action to reduce size of Civil Service and staff costs) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 3 1980 Mar 5 2010 Dec 30 Secret 142
PREM19/763 Germany (Chancellor Schmidt's visit to the UK, May 1981: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 3) 1980 Nov 13 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 215
PREM19/641 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 30) 1982 Oct 1 1982 Oct 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 203
PREM19/2375 Overseas Aid (Sale of BAe 748 to Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT)) 1984 Dec 4 1987 Nov 26 2016 Jul 21 Secret 22
PREM19/857 Nationalised industries (Proposed acquisition by British Steel Corporation of US steel company, Kaiser Steel) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Nov 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 96

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