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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/978 Defence (Future UK defence policy; the health of the NATO Alliance; review of NATO) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 5 1983 Oct 3 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 246
PREM19/1073 Japan (Commercial relations with Japan; effects of Japanese imports on the European car industry; possible Nissan investment in UK) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 22 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 295
PREM19/1041 Government machinery (Publicity for open structure appointments) 1983 Oct 4 1983 Oct 20 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 5
PREM19/1007 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Williamsburg) (Part 11) 1982 Sep 21 1983 Apr 28 2013 Aug 1 Secret 229
PREM19/1103 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Alexander Solzhenitsyn: record of meeting) 1983 May 6 1983 May 12 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 15
PREM19/979 Defence (Modernisation of Theatre Nuclear Forces (TNF) in Europe; proposed basing of United States Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM) in the UK; Geneva talks on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF)) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 20 1983 Sep 21 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 353
PREM19/1074 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 3) 1982 Jul 12 1983 Sep 5 2013 Aug 1 Secret 423
PREM19/1042 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Rayner Scrutiny Programme 1982/83) (Part 13) 1982 Nov 2 1983 Feb 28 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 386
PREM19/1008 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Williamsburg) (Part 12) 1983 Apr 25 1983 May 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 325
PREM19/1104 Prime Minister (Future of Timex operation in Dundee: Prime Minister's meetings with Gordon Wilson MP and Ernie Ross MP) 1983 Jan 24 1983 May 19 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 124
PREM19/1075 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; Beirut barracks bombing, 23 October 1983; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 4) 1983 Sep 6 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 275
PREM19/948 Aerospace (Presentation by Rolls-Royce and British Aerospace to Prime Minister and other Ministers on aerospace) 1983 Sep 6 1983 Nov 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 58
PREM19/1043 Government machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure; pay) (Part 2) 1980 Oct 10 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 201
PREM19/1137 Security (Seizure of Iranian Embassy in South Kensington and the taking of hostages, April-May 1980) 1980 Apr 30 1983 Feb 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 70
PREM19/1009 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Williamsburg) (Part 13) 1983 May 27 1983 Oct 2 2013 Aug 1 Secret 221

Pages