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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/852 Nationalised industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy; gas legislation; industrial energy policy; wage negotiations) (Part 6) 1981 Oct 13 1982 Oct 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 449
PREM19/130 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 15 1979 Jul 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 304
PREM19/2319 Manpower (Special employment measures: reducing unemployment below two million; future of the Training Commission) (Part 19) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Oct 31 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 343
PREM19/2320 Manpower (Special employment measures: White Paper 'Employment for the 1990s') (Part 20) 1988 Nov 1 1988 Dec 29 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 281
PREM19/217 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 5) 1980 May 1 1980 Jul 16 2010 Dec 30 Secret 209
PREM19/1577 Nationalised Industries (Prospects for steel industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) future strategy; plant closures) (Part 12) 1983 Jul 7 1985 Aug 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/946 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with UK) 1981 Nov 12 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 217
PREM19/438 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 4) 1980 Oct 31 1981 Feb 17 2011 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/824 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 16 1982 Jul 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 345
PREM19/310 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; pay negotiations; contingency planning) (Part 5) 1980 Feb 15 1980 Mar 12 2010 Dec 30 Secret 226
PREM19/185 Economic policy (Inflation proofed pensions in the public sector; independent enquiry) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 10 1980 Jun 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 229
PREM19/531 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 6) 1981 May 1 1981 Sep 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 340
PREM19/1544 Iraq (Visits to UK by Iraqi Deputy Prime Ministers, Taha Ramadhan and Tariq Aziz (also Foreign Minister): meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Nov 23 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret 362
PREM19/2290 Kenya (Prime Minister's visit to Kenya, January 1988) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 16 1988 Apr 20 2016 Jul 21 2 Secret 282
PREM19/1418 Agriculture (Agricultural expenditure) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 23 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 307

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