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
PREM19/1076 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 5A) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Dec 4 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 220
PREM19/2719 Home Affairs (Lead in the environment: reports of the Lawther Working Party (1980) and Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (1983)) 1980 Mar 20 1989 Feb 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1839 Mapower (Employment policy: enterprise and employment measures; feasibility study of a 'Workfare' scheme to replace long term unemployment in UK) (Part 3) 1985 Aug 5 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/247 Government Machinery (Ministerial co-ordination of maritime affairs) 1979 May 16 1980 Feb 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/2998 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 2a) 1990 Jan 5 1990 Feb 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3631 Civil Service (Rules on the acceptance of business appointments by civil servants following resignation or retirement) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 8 1991 Oct 17 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1675 Australia (Visits of Australian Prime Ministers to London: Malcolm Fraser (February 1980 and July 1981) and Robert Hawke (June 1983 and April 1986); meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 21 1986 Apr 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/994 Economic policy (Panamanian freight tax) 1983 Dec 30 1984 Apr 2 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 37
PREM19/659 Argentina (Compensation for the requisition of shipping and for civilian losses during the Falklands campaign) 1982 Jun 17 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 49
PREM19/2422 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Sir Brandon Rhys Williams MP) 1986 Nov 11 1987 Nov 25 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 72
PREM19/1902 Prime Minister (Meeting with Neville Trotter MP about Swan Hunter shipyard) 1986 Feb 27 1986 Mar 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2571 USA (Visits to UK by Ambassador Paul Nitze, United States Special Adviser on Arms Control) 1983 Jun 28 1987 Feb 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/167 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 10) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Oct 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/3217 Agriculture ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's lunch with innovative farmers, 3 May 1991) 1989 Nov 27 1991 May 2 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3804 Industrial Policy (British Technology Group (BTG): compendium; privatisation) (Part 3) 1989 Feb 1 1992 Mar 10 2017 Dec 29

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