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 Endssort ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2960 Education (Tuition fees for overseas students) 1980 Jun 4 1990 Aug 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/754 European policy (European Council meeting, Venice, June 1980: briefing papers) 1980 Jun 3 1980 Jun 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 754
PREM19/1852 Ministers (Market and Opinion Research International Ltd (MORI): requests for Geoffrey Finsberg MP and Lord Young to participate in surveys on a range of issues affecting British industry) 1980 Jun 2 1986 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/759 Foreign policy (East/West relations; United States foreign policy) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 2 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 227
PREM19/3517 Royal Family ​​​​​​​(Prince of Wales' proposed visit to India, and Princess of Wales' proposed visit to Pakistan) 1980 Jun 1 1991 Jul 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2188 Government Buildings (Refurbishing of Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 1 1988 Aug 12 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3028 Home Affairs (The campaign against and the use of chemical herbicides, especially 2,4,5-T: pesticide policy) 1980 Jun 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2574 Zambia (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Kebby Musokatwane, September 1987) 1980 May 30 1987 Sep 7 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 23
PREM19/1219 European policy (Presidency of European Commission; UK Commissioners; official posts in Commission; European Secretariat in Cabinet Office) (Part 1) 1980 May 29 1984 Feb 6 2014 Jan 3 Secret 287
PREM19/827 Legal procedure (Law on homosexual offences in Northern Ireland; judgement of European Court of Human Rights) 1980 May 29 1982 Mar 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 42
PREM19/381 USA (Visit to UK by Dr Harold Brown, US Secretary of Defense, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 May 28 1980 Aug 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 74
PREM19/496 Iran (Internal situation; US and UK relations with Iran following hostage taking at American embassy in Tehran; demonstration in Grosvenor Square by Iranian students; sanctions) (Part 8) 1980 May 28 1981 Feb 17 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 302
PREM19/488 India (UK/Indian relations; Indo/Soviet arms deal) (Part 1) 1980 May 28 1981 Jan 28 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 165
PREM19/286 Italy (Visit to UK by Emilio Colombo, Foreign Minister, May 1980) 1980 May 27 1980 May 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 22
PREM19/332 Post and Telecommunications (Postal charges on articles for the blind) 1980 May 21 1981 Jan 19 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 37

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