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
PREM19/1663 Deaths (Assassination of Indira Gandhi, October 1984: Prime Minister's visit to India to attend funeral) 1984 Oct 31 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/505 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the 'Dirty Protest') (Part 4) 1981 May 20 1981 Jul 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 336
PREM19/847 National health (Pay in the National Health Service (NHS); possibility of industrial action; strike by ambulance men) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1982 Aug 31 2012 Dec 28 Secret 109
PREM19/1190 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 26) 1983 Dec 5 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 281
PREM19/1532 Hong Kong (Power projects in Hong Kong and China involving UK companies: Castle Peak power station in Hong Kong; Guandong nuclear power project) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 2 1985 Dec 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 300
PREM19/383 USA (Visits to UK by Cyrus Vance, US Secretary of State: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 May 14 1980 Feb 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/724 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Versailles) (Part 8) 1982 Jun 3 1982 Jun 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 213
PREM19/3602 Aerospace (European Airbus: European Transonic Windtunnel (ETW)) (Part 3) 1987 Dec 3 1992 Sep 3 2017 Dec 29 3 Secret 332
PREM19/1758 Foreign Policy (Review of the British Council) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 9 1986 Jul 21 2014 Dec 30 Secret 279
PREM19/598 Trade (Britain's international trading policies; non-tariff barriers; effects on UK industry of open trading system) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 167
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

Pages