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 Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2021 Bahrain (UK/Bahraini relations) ​​​​​​​(Part 1) 1979 Jun 26 1987 Jul 16 2016 Dec 30 3 Secret 264
PREM19/81 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 27 1979 Sep 28 2010 Nov 10 3 Secret 184
PREM19/1976 Spain (Internal situation; UK/Spain relations) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 10 1986 Feb 21 2016 Jul 21 3
PREM19/2417 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan) 1983 Feb 3 1988 Dec 5 2016 Jul 21 3 Confidential 54
PREM19/274 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 4) 1980 Jan 9 1980 Jan 30 2010 Dec 30 3 Secret 213
PREM19/780 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); reorganisation of the central departments; creation of Management and Personnel Office (MPO); future of Efficiency Unit; policy advice for Prime Minister) (Part 5) 1981 Nov 4 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 303
PREM19/1334 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 13) 1984 Sep 21 1984 Oct 19 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 396
PREM19/940 United Nations (Visits to UK by Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1981 May 13 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 293
PREM19/2123 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: national curriculum; education in Scotland and Wales; Education Reform Bill; financial delegation; Government response to Education, Science and Arts Select Committee report) (Part 16) 1987 Nov 2 1987 Dec 30 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/1207 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 15) 1984 Mar 2 1984 May 21 2014 Jan 3 2 Secret 368
PREM19/589 Security (Lord Kagan) 1980 Dec 15 1981 Apr 16 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 19
PREM19/2450 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris, November 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Nov 1 1987 Nov 23 2016 Nov 7 2 Confidential 18
PREM19/639 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 28) 1982 Jul 21 1982 Aug 31 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 224
PREM19/2322 Mauritius (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth, February 1988: meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1988 Feb 5 1988 Sep 5 2016 Jul 21 2 Secret 40
PREM19/2861 South Africa (UK/South Africa relations: internal situation) (Part 20) 1989 Sep 4 1989 Oct 30 2017 Jul 20 2 Secret 267

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