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
PREM19/1664 Aerospace (British Aerospace (BAe): shares for employees) 1980 May 3 1986 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2553 Trade (Proposed guidance on open-ended contracts: non-competitive government contracts; political (non-commercial) clauses in local authority contracts) 1980 May 2 1987 Jun 22 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Commercial in Confidence 95
PREM19/3613 Bahrain (Visit to the UK by the Prime Minister of Bahrain, Shaikh Khalifa, September 1980) 1980 May 2 1992 Aug 20 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/277 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 7) 1980 May 1 1980 May 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/1277 Industrial policy (Micro-electronics industry; support for Inmos Ltd (INMOS)) (Part 2) 1980 May 1 1984 Mar 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/217 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 5) 1980 May 1 1980 Jul 16 2010 Dec 30 Secret 209
PREM19/879 Prime Minister (Meeting with delegation of Conservative Friends of Israel) 1980 May 1 1982 Jul 12 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 31
PREM19/2211 Greece (UK/Greek relations) (Part 1) 1980 May 1 1987 Mar 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2214 Histories (Histories of Special Operations Executive (SOE)) 1980 May 1 1988 Nov 24 2015 Dec 30 Secret and Personal 32
PREM19/3592 Zimbabwe ​​​​​​​(Visits to UK by Prime Minister Robert Mugabe)​​​​​​​ 1980 May 1 1991 Aug 22 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1137 Security (Seizure of Iranian Embassy in South Kensington and the taking of hostages, April-May 1980) 1980 Apr 30 1983 Feb 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 70
PREM19/1860 National Health (Contraception for the under sixteens) 1980 Apr 30 1986 Feb 27 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/607 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; understandings between the USA and UK on use of nuclear weapons and bases) (Part 2) 1980 Apr 29 1981 Mar 9 Retained Unknown
PREM19/1576 National Health (Road traffic accident charges: recovery of hospital costs) 1980 Apr 29 1985 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 30
PREM19/226 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 8) 1980 Apr 29 1980 Jun 3 2010 Dec 30 Secret 251

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