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
PREM19/391 Arts and amenities (Future of the Wernher Collection at Luton Hoo) 1980 May 20 1981 Feb 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 31
PREM19/138 Algeria (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister Mohammed Benyahia, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 4) 1980 May 20 1980 Jun 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/545 Nationalised industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 1) 1980 May 20 1981 Dec 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 223
PREM19/3471 Nigeria ​​​​​​​(Visits of Nigerian Foreign Ministers) 1980 May 16 1991 Apr 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1595 Parliament (Cost of Parliament: report of Select Committee on Procedure (Finance)) 1980 May 16 1985 Apr 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/399 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; review of pay research system; staffing problems in London) (Part 2) 1980 May 16 1981 Feb 25 2011 Dec 30 Secret 178
PREM19/1960 Social Services (Review of National Insurance position of the self-employed; assistance to small businesses; Prime Minister's meeting with National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses Ltd) 1980 May 15 1986 Jan 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2723 Home Affairs (Race relations: Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) draft Code of Practice; scrutiny of grants under section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966) (Part 1) 1980 May 14 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/767 Germany (Visit of Dr Ernst Albrecht, Minister-President of Lower Saxony: call on the Prime Minister) 1980 May 14 1980 Jul 11 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 24
PREM19/1973 Soviet Union (Human rights and the position of dissidents in the Soviet Union: policy towards the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)) (Part 1) 1980 May 14 1985 May 3 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/296 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 3) 1980 May 13 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 275
PREM19/594 Security (Prosecution of John Wagstaff under Official Secrets Act; investigation by Security Commission) 1980 May 13 1981 May 8 2012 Feb 22 Secret 123
PREM19/321 Parliament (Defence Committee inquiry into Polaris successor systems) 1980 May 9 1980 Oct 17 2010 Dec 30 Top Secret 14
PREM19/376 Sport (UK participation in Moscow Olympic Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 3) 1980 May 9 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 142
PREM19/197 Economic policy (Seminar with academic economists, 13 July 1980) 1980 May 9 1980 Jul 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 34

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