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? File classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/2021 Bahrain (UK/Bahraini relations) ​​​​​​​(Part 1) 1979 Jun 26 1987 Jul 16 2016 Dec 30 3 Secret 264
PREM19/1820 Japan (Anglo-Japanese relations) (Part 5) 1985 Jun 7 1986 Dec 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 264
PREM19/203 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 3) 1979 Nov 5 1980 Feb 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 264
PREM19/3654 Denmark (Visits to the UK by the Prime Minister of Denmark) (Part 1) 1982 Jul 1 1992 Oct 1 2017 Dec 29 1 Confidential 264
PREM19/3071 Manpower (Special employment measures: training policy; pilot schemes of training credits for young people) (Part 24) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 264
PREM19/931 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay dispute) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 4 1982 Feb 9 2012 Dec 28 Secret 264
PREM19/1413 Aerospace (Space policy: formation of British National Space Centre (BNSC)) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 20 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/1093 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity industries; report by Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) on electricity prices for industry; gas appliance retailing; Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) report on efficiency in Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB)) (Part 7) 1982 Oct 14 1983 Mar 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 265
PREM19/273 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 3) 1979 Dec 23 1980 Jan 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/934 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' industrial action; contingency planning; McCarthy report on railway productivity and pay; rail fare increases) (Part 5) 1982 Jun 28 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 265
PREM19/3378 Home Affairs (Government support for voluntary bodies) (Part 2) 1989 Jul 10 1991 Oct 17 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 265
PREM19/342 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 12) 1979 Dec 21 1980 Jan 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 265
PREM19/1019 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 11) 1983 Feb 9 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 265
PREM19/1118 Royal family (Public memorial to Lord Mountbatten; appeal for statue; selection of sculptor; arrangements for unveiling ceremony) (Part 2) 1981 Jun 3 1983 Sep 29 2014 Feb 14 Confidential 265
PREM19/2379 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 17) 1987 Nov 9 1988 Sep 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret 265

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