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
PREM19/1074 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 3) 1982 Jul 12 1983 Sep 5 2013 Aug 1 Secret 423
PREM19/444 Economic policy (Disposal of public sector assets) (Part 4) 1980 Oct 31 1981 Oct 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 255
PREM19/127 United States (MT visit to Washington - policy, December 1979) 1979 Nov 8 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 301
PREM19/343 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 13) 1980 Jan 12 1980 Jan 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/1176 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; Civil Service manpower; senior management programme; financial management in government departments; unified grading) (Part 16) 1984 Jul 2 1984 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 425
PREM19/537 National health (Doctors' and dentists' pay; report of Review Body; consultants' contracts) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 25 1981 May 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/221 European Policy (European Council Meeting, Luxembourg, 1-2 December 1980) (Part 5) 1980 Oct 24 1980 Dec 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 128
PREM19/916 Security (Resignation of Commander Michael Trestrail, Queen's Police Officer; homosexual relationship with male prostitute; investigation by Lord Bridge of Harwich into security aspects) 1982 Jul 19 1982 Nov 25 2013 Nov 20 Secret 82
PREM19/2546 Soviet Union (Visits to UK by President Gorbachev) (Part 2) 1988 Nov 10 1988 Dec 29 3 Secret 368
PREM19/1267 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 16) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Sep 25 2014 Jan 3 11 Secret 415
PREM19/1615 Regional Policy (Inner city policy: Urban Programme; illegal rate setting by Liverpool City Council; appointment of commissioners; reorganisation of schools) (Part 5) 1984 Apr 27 1985 Jan 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 334
PREM19/794 Housing (Housing policy; Housing Act 1980; council house sales) (Part 3) 1981 Oct 27 1982 Dec 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 143
PREM19/1137 Security (Seizure of Iranian Embassy in South Kensington and the taking of hostages, April-May 1980) 1980 Apr 30 1983 Feb 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 70
PREM19/631 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 20) 1982 May 25 1982 May 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 286
PREM19/1009 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Williamsburg) (Part 13) 1983 May 27 1983 Oct 2 2013 Aug 1 Secret 221

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