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 Endssort ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2196 Government Machinery (Propriety of Ministers arranging briefing for Conservative backbenchers) 1979 Dec 5 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 13
PREM19/279 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Conference, Belfast) (Part 5) 1979 Dec 5 1980 Mar 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 198
PREM19/314 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding; British Shipbuilders (BS) strategy and financing; BS pay claim; privatisation) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 5 1980 Nov 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 193
PREM19/159 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 4 1980 Jun 9 2012 Jun 21 Top Secret 199
PREM19/430 Economic policy (Inland Revenue computer project: computerisation of PAYE; future of International Computers Limited (ICL)) 1979 Dec 4 1981 Mar 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/222 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 4) 1979 Dec 3 1980 Jan 21 2010 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/412 Defence (Modernisation of Theatre Nuclear Forces (TNF) in Europe; proposed basing of United States Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM) in the UK) (Part 2) 1979 Dec 3 1981 Mar 10 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 106
PREM19/2900 Aerospace (The fourth and fifth terminals for Heathrow Airport: developments at Heathrow) 1979 Dec 3 1990 Jan 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/116 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 11) 1979 Dec 2 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 443
PREM19/3551 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(New Russian Embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens: Operation Brunch; proposed site for Ambassador's residence in Moscow)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1979 Dec 1 1991 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2532 Soviet Union (Soviet economy: grain harvest) 1979 Dec 1 1987 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30 1 Top Secret UK Eyes A 16
PREM19/3577 Transport ​​​​​​​(Proposed increase in the driving test fee and changes to the driving test procedure: photographs on driving licences) 1979 Dec 1 1991 Dec 16 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1541 Industrial policy (Industrial action in the oil industry: possible tanker drivers' strike; contingency planning) 1979 Nov 30 1985 Oct 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 187
PREM19/242 Government Machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the scrutiny programme) (Part 4) 1979 Nov 30 1980 Feb 12 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 228
PREM19/119 Security (Robin Cook's Bill on the Security Service) 1979 Nov 29 1979 Dec 17 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 17

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