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?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/119 Security (Robin Cook's Bill on the Security Service) 1979 Nov 29 1979 Dec 17 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/1134 Security (Leak of government documents during the election campaign; investigation) 1983 May 12 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 25
PREM19/797 Immigration (White Paper on proposals for changing the immigration rules; review of immigration appeals system) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 19 1982 Aug 26 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 167
PREM19/461 European policy (European Council meeting in Maastricht, Netherlands, March 1981) (Part 6) 1981 Feb 24 1981 Apr 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 85
PREM19/3107 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: Select Committees) (Part 10) 1989 Apr 7 1990 May 29 2017 Jul 20 Confidential - not for NAO eyes 397
PREM19/3677 Economic Policy (Taxation of individuals, including overseas voters and families: launch of Tax-Exempt Special Savings Account (TESSA) schemes) (Part 5) 1990 May 22 1992 Jul 20 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 22
PREM19/1490 European Policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, March 1985) (Part 20) 1985 Mar 7 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 718
PREM19/2524 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 14) 1986 Dec 9 1987 Aug 28 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1732 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 8) 1986 Oct 10 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/39 Economic policy (Bank of England staff pay) 1979 Jun 20 1979 Jun 21 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 9
PREM19/1389 Security (Distribution of intelligence reports and assessments) 1979 May 14 1984 Nov 14 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/716 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 18) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Mar 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 474
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
PREM19/4241 India (Prime Minister's visit to India: Indian nuclear programme) (Part 3) 1982 Aug 1 1993 Feb 28 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3259 Defence (Biological and chemical weapons: policy and export controls) (Part 2) 1989 Jan 1 1991 May 30 Retained Under Sec 3.4

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