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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/1086 Local government (Southwark Council's blacklisting of contractors involved in work at Greenham Common: representation from Lord Harris of Greenwich) 1983 Feb 16 1983 Mar 24 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 9
PREM19/962 China (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong & Japan, September 1982: policy) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 13 1983 Feb 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 186
PREM19/1057 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 8) 1983 Sep 1 1983 Sep 30 2013 Aug 1 6 Secret 304
PREM19/945 Vatican (Vatican delegation to Heads of State about nuclear weapons; meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Jan 29 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 59
PREM19/669 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 4) 1981 Oct 26 1982 Feb 9 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 285
PREM19/867 Parliament (Succession to the Crown; Private Member's Bill) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Apr 16 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 47
PREM19/809 Industrial policy (European Commission ruling against Industry Act assistance to Hitachi Maxwell) 1982 Dec 15 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 6
PREM19/683 Defence (Purchase by Ministry of Defence of aircraft for conversion to aerial tanker and freighter roles) 1982 Dec 2 1982 Dec 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 27
PREM19/902 Science and Technology (Government procurement of computers and related equipment; Prime Minister’s reception for representatives of the computer industry) 1981 Mar 11 1982 Feb 15 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 131
PREM19/776 Government machinery (Civil Contingencies Unit reports; emergency powers legislation; withstanding strikes in key sectors of the economy) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 2 1982 Sep 29 2012 Dec 28 Secret 86
PREM19/654 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks): general correspondence) (Part 1) 1982 Apr 15 1982 Jul 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 203
PREM19/747 European policy (Elections of President of European Parliament; candidacies) 1979 Jun 11 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 12
PREM19/622 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 11) 1982 Apr 27 1982 Apr 29 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 288
PREM19/838 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) Unemployment Study) (Part 7) 1982 Apr 30 1982 Aug 20 2012 Dec 28 Secret 230
PREM19/715 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 19) 1982 Nov 1 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 318

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