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 classificationsort ascending Pages
PREM19/3612 Austria (Visits to the UK by Chancellor Kreisky and his successor Chancellor Vranitsky) 1980 Jun 27 1992 Oct 12 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 100
PREM19/1400 Transport (British Rail: review of main line electrification; Hastings-Tonbridge rail service) 1980 Nov 13 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 274
PREM19/1275 Industrial policy (Abolition of government control over port development) 1984 Feb 29 1984 Apr 26 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 41
PREM19/119 Security (Robin Cook's Bill on the Security Service) 1979 Nov 29 1979 Dec 17 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/467 Foreign policy (Prime Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia & the Gulf States, April 1981) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 8 1981 Apr 13 2011 Dec 30 3 Confidential 201
PREM19/809 Industrial policy (European Commission ruling against Industry Act assistance to Hitachi Maxwell) 1982 Dec 15 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 6
PREM19/2 Australia (MT visit to, Jul 1979) 1979 May 21 1979 Aug 3 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 212
PREM19/1026 European policy (European Council meeting, Athens, December 1983: briefing papers) (Part 13A) 1983 Nov 8 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 345
PREM19/1368 Royal family (Princess Margaret's proposed visit to China for Royal Ballet performance; Duke of Edinburgh's visit to China as President of World Wildlife Fund (WWF)) 1982 Aug 5 1984 Jan 30 2014 Nov 28 3 Confidential 42
PREM19/1717 Economic policy (Financial Services Bill: the Stock Exchange; commercial fraud; Roskill Report on Fraud Trials) (Part 2) 1985 Oct 1 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 268
PREM19/214 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 29 1980 Jan 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 185
PREM19/902 Science and Technology (Government procurement of computers and related equipment; Prime Minister’s reception for representatives of the computer industry) 1981 Mar 11 1982 Feb 15 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 131
PREM19/3955 Sport (Withdrawal of the Soviet Union from the Los Angeles Olympic Games, 1984: Yugoslavia and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics) 1984 May 8 1992 Jul 22 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 21
PREM19/1244 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 8 1984 Sep 28 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 357
PREM19/87 Italy (Italian PM’s visits to UK) (?Part 1) [possible filing error - Part 2 of this file has no clear Part 1] 1979 Jun 1 1979 Jul 16 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 104

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