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.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/232 European Policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with James Scott-Hopkins MEP, leader of European Democratic Group (EDG) in European Parliament, and other EDG MEPs) 1979 Jul 16 1980 Jul 18 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 218
PREM19/1538 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland: privatisation of UniPart; collaboration with Honda) (Part 9) 1984 Apr 1 1985 Jul 7 2014 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/222 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 4) 1979 Dec 3 1980 Jan 21 2010 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/30 Economic policy (National Economic Development Council) (NEDC) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1979 Dec 18 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 219
PREM19/2213 Guyana (Visits to UK by Guyanese Presidents Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte) 1980 Jan 11 1988 May 11 2016 Jul 21 4 Confidential 219
PREM19/2361 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 14) 1985 Sep 3 1987 Sep 25 2016 Jul 21 Secret 219
PREM19/1451 Drugs (Drug misuse: trafficking; proposed legislation; Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) report) (Part 2) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/687 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 2 1982 Feb 12 2012 Dec 28 Secret 219
PREM19/42 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 16 2009 Dec 30 2 Confidential 219
PREM19/172 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 5) 1980 Feb 1 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 219
PREM19/2458 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey, April 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jan 5 1988 May 12 2016 Dec 30 15 Secret 220
PREM19/738 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 14) 1982 Feb 3 1982 Mar 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 220
PREM19/500 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 5 1981 Jul 21 2011 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/1076 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 5A) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Dec 4 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 220
PREM19/137 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Apr 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220

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