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
PREM19/1486 European Policy (Enlargement of European Community: applications of Portugal and Spain) (Part 2) 1983 Jun 13 1985 Aug 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 279
PREM19/138 Algeria (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister Mohammed Benyahia, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 4) 1980 May 20 1980 Jun 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/3055 Israel (Visits to UK by Menachem Begin, Israeli Prime Minister, and his successors Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres) (Part 1) 1979 May 6 1990 Jun 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/479 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme) (Part 9) 1981 May 21 1981 Sep 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 341
PREM19/3645 Defence (Enlargement of the Western European Union (WEU)) 1988 Apr 1 1992 Jan 2 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 46
PREM19/2413 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Sieff) 1980 Apr 8 1987 Jun 16 2016 Jul 21 Secret 72
PREM19/1893 Prime Minister (Correspondence from Councillor John Holt about threatened closure of Case Tractors, Meltham) 1985 Jul 1 1986 Mar 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1750 European Policy (European Community Budget: report on UK applications for European Regional Development Grants) (Part 33) 1984 Oct 1 1986 Sep 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/57 France (MT visits to, Paris June 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Aug 28 2009 Dec 30 Secret 172
PREM19/1407 Zaire (Visits to UK by President Mobutu, December 1981 and September 1984: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Nov 19 1984 Dec 4 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 70
PREM19/1071 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 26 1983 Aug 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 183
PREM19/734 Energy (Energy policy; nuclear power policy; fast reactor policy; Sizewell Inquiry; oil depletion policy; refinery and dispersal strategy; Select Committee report on nuclear power programme) (Part 6) 1980 Dec 11 1982 Jan 20 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 341
PREM19/399 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; review of pay research system; staffing problems in London) (Part 2) 1980 May 16 1981 Feb 25 2011 Dec 30 Secret 178
PREM19/4799 Kiribati (UK/Kiribati relations: internal situation; visits by Ieremia Tabai and Teatao Teannaki) 1985 Nov 20 1994 May 10 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3229 Cabinet (Forward look for Cabinet and Cabinet committee business) (Part 3) 1986 Jan 17 1991 Jan 23 2017 Jul 20 Secret 269

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