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
PREM19/3037 India (Visit to the UK by Ramaswamy Venkataraman, President of India, April 1990) 1990 Feb 1 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 25) 1988 Sep 1 1988 Sep 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1662 Civil Service (Industrial relations in the Civil Service: Department of Health and Social Security industrial action) 1979 Sep 5 1985 Oct 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1321 National health (Future of optical services; end of opticians' monopoly on sale of spectacles) 1983 Apr 15 1984 Nov 19 2014 Jan 3 Secret 38
PREM19/983 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 21) 1982 Oct 1 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/4284 Liechenstein (UK/Liechtenstein relations: internal situation) 1984 Oct 1 1993 Dec 22 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/649 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 7) 1982 May 21 1982 May 31 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 92
PREM19/308 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 8 1980 Jan 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 319
PREM19/3380 Home Affairs (Review of the law on public order) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 2 1991 Jun 17 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 233
PREM19/3086 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 33) 1990 Nov 1 1990 Nov 17 2017 Jul 20 Top Secret - Cab One 375
PREM19/2203 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 23) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Jun 26 2015 Dec 30 Confidential and Personal 292
PREM19/2897 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 18) 1989 Jan 3 1989 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/2071 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA); Chieftain tank replacement;) (Part 6) 1988 Apr 1 1988 Oct 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1578 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 15) 1984 Nov 21 1985 Jan 18 2014 Dec 30 Secret 379
PREM19/1240 (annex) France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand; briefing for May 1982 meeting of Franco-British Council in Edinburgh) (Part 3) 1981 Sep 11 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 171

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