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
PREM19/1576 National Health (Road traffic accident charges: recovery of hospital costs) 1980 Apr 29 1985 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 30
PREM19/1003 Economic policy (Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB): reports on salaries of senior civil servants, senior members of the armed services and judges; salaries of Members of Parliament) (Part 4) 1981 Nov 9 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 204
PREM19/2612 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: major Ministry of Defence (MOD) procurement projects; new tank for the Army) (Part 7) 1988 Nov 11 1989 Dec 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3529 Security ​​​​​​​(Product of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC)) 1984 Jun 22 1991 Mar 13 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2574 Zambia (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Kebby Musokatwane, September 1987) 1980 May 30 1987 Sep 7 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 23
PREM19/451 Egypt (Visits to UK by Vice President Mubarak in June 1979, May 1980 and September 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) 1979 May 29 1980 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 156
PREM19/2717 Home Affairs (Data protection: computer hacking) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 12 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1837 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation) (Part 4) 1986 Jan 3 1986 Aug 23 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 258
PREM19/3018 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 33) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/370 South Africa (Visit to UK by Dr Van Zyl Slabbert, leader of opposition, September 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Sep 9 1980 Oct 1 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 32
PREM19/606 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with South Africa) 1980 Apr 17 1981 Nov 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/2420 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Roger Gale MP to discuss the employment problems of the Isle of Thanet, 13 January 1987. Note:Â With map) 1986 Dec 15 1987 May 18 2016 Jul 21 Restricted 87
PREM19/1900 Prime Minister (Allegations by Mail on Sunday newspaper of Prime Minister's involvement in share-dealing whilst in office) 1986 Mar 24 1986 May 29 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2568 USA (UK/USA relations) 1986 Jun 1 1987 Jun 26 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1758 Foreign Policy (Review of the British Council) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 9 1986 Jul 21 2014 Dec 30 Secret 279

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