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
PREM19/1069 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 14) 1983 Aug 1 1983 Dec 13 2013 Aug 1 12 Secret 274
PREM19/1783 Home Affairs (Civil disorder: the Handsworth and Tottenham riots) (Part 3) 1985 Oct 4 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 98
PREM19/3264 Disasters ​​​​​​​(Piper Alpha oil platform explosion, 6 July 1988)(Part 1) 1988 Jul 7 1991 Mar 25 2017 Jul 20 Secret 131
PREM19/213 Defence (Arms control) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 18 1979 Aug 24 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 231
PREM19/559 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 2) 1980 Dec 1 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/1573 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): annual report; restrictions on NHS prescribing; limited list of drugs; health charges) (Part 4) 1984 Sep 4 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 319
PREM19/600 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1981: meeting with President Reagan) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 311
PREM19/943 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 May 5 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 8 Secret 227
PREM19/2428 Prime Minister (Policy Unit briefing for Prime Minister: general topics) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Mar 4 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 252
PREM19/821 Japan (Commercial relations with Japan; proposed Nissan car plant in the UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1981 Nov 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 248
PREM19/1038 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 2 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 315
PREM19/182 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; transitional problems; arbitration arrangements; comparability and cash limits) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 25 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 193
PREM19/1199 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 11) 1983 Nov 4 1984 Nov 26 2014 Jan 3 Secret 414
PREM19/1541 Industrial policy (Industrial action in the oil industry: possible tanker drivers' strike; contingency planning) 1979 Nov 30 1985 Oct 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 187
PREM19/2093 Economic Policy (Exchange rate: exchange control policy) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 6 1986 Dec 11 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 230

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