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
PREM19/800 India (Visit to UK by Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, March 1982: Festival of India 1982) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 17 1982 Feb 27 2012 Dec 28 7 Confidential 207
PREM19/674 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 10) 1982 Feb 8 1982 Feb 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 274
PREM19/893 Prime Minister (Disappearance and rescue of Mark Thatcher in Algeria during Paris to Dakar car rally) 1981 Dec 17 1982 Sep 13 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 104
PREM19/767 Germany (Visit of Dr Ernst Albrecht, Minister-President of Lower Saxony: call on the Prime Minister) 1980 May 14 1980 Jul 11 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 24
PREM19/646 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 4) 1982 Apr 30 1982 May 4 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 36
PREM19/862 Parliament (Appointment of Parliamentary Private Secretaries) (Part 1) 1979 May 7 1982 Apr 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 267
PREM19/739 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 15) 1982 Mar 22 1982 May 14 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 196
PREM19/614 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 3) 1982 Apr 1 1982 Apr 5 2012 Dec 28 1 Top Secret 236
PREM19/707 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 11) 1981 Dec 3 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 229
PREM19/923 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 2) 1980 Sep 8 1982 Oct 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 212
PREM19/801 India (Visit to UK by Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, March 1982: meeting with Prime Minister; Festival of India) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Aug 5 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 229
PREM19/675 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 11) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Jul 7 2012 Dec 28 Secret 172
PREM19/894 Prime Minister (Closure of British Aluminium Company's smelter at Invergordon; meeting with Lord Plowden; proposals for a restart; proposed new power contract) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 4 1982 Mar 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 193
PREM19/768 Germany (Removal of the limitations on Federal German naval shipbuilding and armaments) 1980 Jul 11 1982 Sep 6 2012 Dec 28 Secret 23
PREM19/647 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 5) 1982 May 5 1982 May 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 138

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