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
PREM19/519 Local government (Possibility of an Accounts Commission for Local Government) 1979 Oct 31 1981 Jun 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 23
PREM19/896 Rhodesia (Sir Roy Welensky, former Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland) 1979 Oct 31 1982 Oct 28 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 61
PREM19/2986 European Policy (Calls on the Prime Minister by the President of the European Parliament) 1979 Oct 30 1990 Mar 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1128 Security (Possibility of secure telephone link between Washington, London, Paris and Bonn) 1979 Oct 29 1983 Oct 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 28
PREM19/214 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 29 1980 Jan 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 185
PREM19/1971 South Korea (UK/South Korea relations; internal situation; death of President Park; election and resignation of President Choi Kya-hah; inauguration of President Chun Doo-hwan; visit of President Chun to UK and meeting with Prime Minister, 9 April 1986) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 27 1986 Aug 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/350 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 41-79) 1979 Oct 27 1979 Nov 16 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 324
PREM19/3653 Denmark ​​​​​​​Internal situation: UK/Denmark relations (Part 1) 1979 Oct 26 1992 Nov 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/184 Economic policy (The Brandt Commission: report on international development issues; proposal for a North/South summit meeting) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 26 1980 Nov 18 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 217
PREM19/55 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 3) 1979 Oct 25 1979 Nov 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 329
PREM19/300 National Health (Pneumoconiosis compensation schemes) 1979 Oct 25 1980 Feb 8 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 24
PREM19/83 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 4) 1979 Oct 24 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 225
PREM19/23 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 6) 1979 Oct 24 1979 Nov 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 292
PREM19/485 Home affairs (Powers of entry: review by David Mitchell, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at Department of Industry; enforcement powers of Revenue Departments; European Commission powers of entry) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 23 1981 Sep 25 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 244
PREM19/1734 Egypt (Visits to the UK by Prime Ministers, Dr Mustafa Khalil and Dr Ali Loutfi: meetings with the Prime Minister) 1979 Oct 22 1986 Sep 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 55

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