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
PREM19/1018 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 1 1983 Feb 8 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 300
PREM19/683 Defence (Purchase by Ministry of Defence of aircraft for conversion to aerial tanker and freighter roles) 1982 Dec 2 1982 Dec 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 27
PREM19/3216 Agriculture ​​​​​​​(Agriculture expenditure: report on the review of agricultural training)(Part 3) 1987 Nov 20 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/497 Iraq (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister Dr Saadoun Hammadi, March 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Nov 13 1981 Mar 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 35
PREM19/3802 Housing (Building societies: Green Paper 'Building Societies: A New Framework'; Building Societies Bill; mortgage rates) (Part 2) 1984 Jul 2 1992 Dec 10 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/156 Commonwealth (Five Power Defence Arrangements: joint exercises; proposal from Prime Minister of Australia) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 11 1980 Oct 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/3073 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 20) 1989 Dec 3 1990 Aug 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2393 Posts and Telecommunications (Study by the Official Group on Telecommunications on withstanding a telecommunications strike; industrial action at British Telecom (BT)) 1982 Jan 11 1987 Mar 3 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/127 United States (MT visit to Washington - policy, December 1979) 1979 Nov 8 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 301
PREM19/1616 Regional Policy (Inner city policy: Liverpool City Council finances; Liverpool Garden Festival site; Birmingham Convention Centre; London Docklands Development Corporation) (Part 6) 1985 Feb 4 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 193
PREM19/1277 Industrial policy (Micro-electronics industry; support for Inmos Ltd (INMOS)) (Part 2) 1980 May 1 1984 Mar 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3355 Germany ​​​​​​​(Replacement of Federal German Ambassadors in London: Prime Minister's meetings with FRG Ambassadors​​​​​​​)(Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1991 Feb 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/939 United Nations (Election of United Nations Secretary-General) 1981 May 5 1982 Feb 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 106
PREM19/3986 USA (Visits to the UK by Richard Nixon) 1980 Apr 9 1992 May 18 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 11
PREM19/418 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 13) 1980 Nov 25 1981 Feb 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 575

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