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
PREM19/920 Social services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1980 Jan 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 79
PREM19/798 India (Prime Minister's visit to India, April 1981: follow-up action) (Part 2) 1981 Apr 19 1982 Feb 16 2012 Dec 28 Secret 95
PREM19/672 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 8) 1981 Nov 9 1982 Jan 13 2012 Dec 28 Secret 306
PREM19/891 Prime Minister (Meeting with Hong Kong Association members) 1982 Aug 20 1982 Sep 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 28
PREM19/766 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Schmidt in Bonn, November 1981) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 2 1982 Nov 19 2012 Dec 28 Secret 68
PREM19/644 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 14 1982 Apr 22 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 78
PREM19/860 Pakistan (Prime Minister's visit to Pakistan, October 1981) 1981 Sep 9 1982 Jan 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 112
PREM19/737 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 13) 1981 Dec 2 1982 Feb 3 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 252
PREM19/612 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 21 1981 Dec 15 2012 Dec 28 Secret 94
PREM19/831 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 8) 1981 Dec 2 1982 Jan 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 171
PREM19/705 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 7) 1982 Apr 29 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 155
PREM19/921 Social services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 22 1981 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 176
PREM19/799 India (UK/Indian relations) (Part 2) 1981 Jan 30 1982 Nov 19 2012 Dec 28 1 Confidential 269
PREM19/673 Civil service (Pay and pensions) (Part 9) 1982 Jan 4 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 271
PREM19/892 Prime Minister (Meeting with George Turnbull and Anthony Fraser, President and Chairman of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Association, on problems of the UK motor industry) 1982 Oct 15 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 22

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