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 Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/487 India (Prime Minister's visit to India, April 1981) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 14 1981 Apr 19 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 357
PREM19/3533 Security ​​​​​​​(Telephone scramblers installed in private homes: security of the private homes of No. 10 Downing Street staff)​​​​​​​ 1981 Jan 14 1991 Jan 30 2052 Jan 1
PREM19/2245 Industrial Policy (Industrial action by seamen) 1981 Jan 12 1988 Jun 15 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 117
PREM19/772 Government machinery (Review of supporting services in research and development and allied scientific establishments) 1981 Jan 8 1982 Jul 26 2012 Dec 28 Restricted 90
PREM19/1826 Legal Procedure (Possible reform of the law on rape) 1981 Jan 6 1986 Nov 11 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 151
PREM19/785 Hong Kong (UK trade with China; power projects in Hong Kong and China involving UK companies) (Part 2) 1981 Jan 5 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Secret 261
PREM19/423 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 8) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256
PREM19/600 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1981: meeting with President Reagan) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 311
PREM19/1817 Israel (Internal situation and relations) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 1 1986 Jan 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3918 Royal Family (Marriage of Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer) 1981 Jan 1 1992 Jun 24 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1390 Social services (Genetic Manipulation Advisory Group (GMAG)) 1980 Dec 31 1984 Jan 11 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 66
PREM19/575 Qatar (North West Dome gas field; pipeline problems; role of World Bank) 1980 Dec 29 1981 Jun 25 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 48
PREM19/4238 Industrial Policy (General Motors/Vauxhall Motors: includes meeting with the President of General Motors to discuss the future of Vauxhall Motors on 30 January 1981: pay of Vauxhall Motors) 1980 Dec 29 1993 Apr 16 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/552 Netherlands (Prime Minister's visit to The Hague, February 1981; meeting with Prime Minister , Dries van Agt) 1980 Dec 23 1981 Feb 13 2011 Dec 30 Secret 92
PREM19/726 Economic policy (Premature disclosure of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) economic forecast data concerning the UK; Prime Minister's protest) 1980 Dec 22 1982 Mar 17 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 30

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