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
PREM19/347 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 17) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Aug 11 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 194
PREM19/1115 Regional policy (Review of regional policy, creation of Enterprise Zones) (Part 4) 1981 Jun 30 1983 Jan 27 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 215
PREM19/2314 Manpower (Rayner Scrutiny of payment of benefits to unemployed people: joint study by Department of Employment and Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS); taxing of Unemployment Benefit) (Part 2) 1982 Jun 4 1988 Mar 8 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 29
PREM19/3045 Iraq (UK/Iraq relations) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1990 Mar 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2324 Middle East (Weapons development) 1987 Aug 6 1987 Aug 26 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/905 Scotland (Scottish Milk Marketing Board (SMMB): correspondence with Dr W G Jack about SMMB’s decision to extend the operation of its tanker fleet) 1979 Sep 26 1982 Jan 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 161
PREM19/1371 Security (Irish terrorist activity in Great Britain) (Part 1A) 1979 May 10 1982 Aug 11 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1668 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 3) 1986 Jan 12 1986 Jan 24 2016 Feb 19 Confidential 318
PREM19/4050 Defence (The D Notice System: Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee (DPBC)) 1980 Mar 14 1993 Jul 13 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/569 Prime Minister (Meeting with Peter Fry MP to discuss closure of Wellingborough Foundry; UK footwear and clothing industries) 1981 May 15 1981 Dec 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 37
PREM19/1035 Germany (Visit to UK by Helmut Kohl, leader of the opposition, January 1982) 1981 Aug 19 1982 Jan 27 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 82
PREM19/268 Industrial policy (Consultations with Trades Union Congress (TUC) on economic strategy; Prime Minister’s meetings with TUC representatives) (Part 3) 1980 Aug 20 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 227
PREM19/3083 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 30) 1990 Sep 26 1990 Oct 8 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/825 Legal procedure (European Court of Human Rights: British Rail closed shop case) 1979 Jun 19 1982 Jan 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 53
PREM19/2208 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste)(Part 28) 1988 Aug 5 1988 Nov 29 2015 Dec 30 Confidential and Personal 380

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