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
PREM19/1441 Defence (Armed Forces' pay: pay review body report; Service doctors' and dentists' pay; local and overseas allowance; London weighting) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 11 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 270
PREM19/1105 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London; inclusion of representative of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 4 1983 Feb 28 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 309
PREM19/768 Germany (Removal of the limitations on Federal German naval shipbuilding and armaments) 1980 Jul 11 1982 Sep 6 2012 Dec 28 Secret 23
PREM19/433 Economic policy (Inquiry into Value of Pensions (chairman: Sir Bernard Scott); index linked public sector pensions) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 28 1981 Jun 4 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 246
PREM19/3155 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; report on 'Developments in Biotechnology') (Part 10) 1990 Jan 2 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 337
PREM19/2354 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry; draft White Paper) (Part 14) 1987 Nov 3 1988 Feb 26 2016 Jul 21 Secret 281
PREM19/3184 Soviet Union (Visits to the UK by Eduard Shevardnadze, Soviet Foreign Minister, July 1986 and December 1989) 1986 Jun 2 1990 Jan 3 2016 Dec 30 Secret 87
PREM19/2490 Security (Intelligence Co-ordinator in the Cabinet Office: proposed appointment of the Sir Anthony Duff and his successors) 1980 Jun 18 1988 Oct 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1704 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions; flotation of Royal Ordnance PLC; Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) picketing at DHSS Huyton Local Office over privatised cleaning contract) (Part 14) 1986 Jul 9 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/11 Cuba (Soviet ground forces) 1979 Sep 5 1979 Dec 17 2009 Dec 30 Secret 28
PREM19/1361 Prime Minister tours abroad (G7 Summit - London; 40th anniversary of D-Day: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1982 Nov 26 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/688 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 8) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Jun 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 123
PREM19/347 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 17) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Aug 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 194
PREM19/3939 Security (Operational file) 1990 Mar 15 1992 Sep 18 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2249 Industrial Policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 13) 1987 Feb 4 1987 Sep 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 224

Pages