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 release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/1280 Industrial policy (Ports: review of policy, industrial action; uture of Port of London Authority (PLA)) (Part 2) 1982 May 11 1984 Dec 10 2014 Jan 3 Secret 328
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
PREM19/2291 Legal Procedure (Jury vetting) 1979 Sep 20 1985 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/3860 Nationalised Industries (Financial position of the coal industry: coal strategy; British Coal privatisation; colliery closures) (Part 22) 1990 Jul 2 1992 Jan 31 2017 Dec 29 Secret 315
PREM19/3244 Commonwealth (Meetings with the Commonwealth Secretary-General) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1991 Aug 28 2017 Jul 20 8 Secret 281
PREM19/472 Germany (Visit to UK by Chancellor Schmidt, March 1980: Anglo-German Summit) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 13 1981 Apr 17 2012 Feb 22 Secret 229
PREM19/814 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 10) 1981 Aug 24 1982 Jan 27 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 262
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 12 Secret 318
PREM19/688 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 8) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 123
PREM19/219 European Policy (European Council Meeting in Luxembourg, 27-28 April 1980 (re-scheduled from Brussels)) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 5 1980 May 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 307
PREM19/3302 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 4) 1990 Sep 5 1991 Jan 30 2017 Jul 20 4 Secret 175
PREM19/92 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1979 Sep 20 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 223
PREM19/440 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 7) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Mar 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/2034 Canada (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1988 Mar 28 2016 Dec 30 1 Secret 294

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