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
PREM19/940 United Nations (Visits to UK by Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1981 May 13 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 293
PREM19/129 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1979 Jun 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 309
PREM19/476 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); consideration of a 'Prime Minister's Department') (Part 4) 1981 May 20 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 227
PREM19/1161 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment) (Part 9) 1983 Feb 1 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 400
PREM19/345 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 15) 1980 Feb 16 1980 Feb 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 221
PREM19/692 Defence (Armed forces' pay; service medical and dental officers' pay) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 244
PREM19/223 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 5) 1980 Jan 22 1980 Feb 25 2010 Dec 30 Secret 144
PREM19/444 Economic policy (Disposal of public sector assets) (Part 4) 1980 Oct 31 1981 Oct 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 255
PREM19/785 Hong Kong (UK trade with China; power projects in Hong Kong and China involving UK companies) (Part 2) 1981 Jan 5 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Secret 261
PREM19/4051 Defence (Strategic food stockpile) 1979 Jun 20 1993 Feb 22 2018 Jul 24 Secret 119
PREM19/1001 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 10) 1983 Apr 22 1983 Sep 16 2013 Aug 1 Secret 108
PREM19/1345 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: proposals for Post Office counters network; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; British Telecom (BT) licence; Mercury Communications Ltd) (Part 8) 1984 Jan 12 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 362
PREM19/316 New Hebrides (Independence; security situation; disturbances on Santo and Tanna; Anglo/French consultations) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 31 1980 Jul 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 153
PREM19/3187 St Lucia (UK/St Lucia relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 29 1990 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30 2 Secret 70
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

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