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 Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/12 Cuba (UK credits) 1979 Nov 19 1979 Dec 14 2009 Dec 30 1 Confidential 9
PREM19/3204 USA (Prime Minister's correspondence and meetings with Congressman Jack Kemp) 1979 Nov 19 1990 Jul 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/115 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 10) 1979 Nov 19 1979 Nov 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 273
PREM19/133 European policy (European Council, Dublin Nov 1979 - briefing) 1979 Nov 19 1979 Nov 24 2009 Dec 30 Secret 418
PREM19/351 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 80-105) 1979 Nov 19 1979 Dec 13 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 235
PREM19/85 Ireland (Information policy - correspondence with HRH Prince of Wales) 1979 Nov 16 1979 Dec 17 2020 Jan 1 Unknown
PREM19/691 Defence (Replacement of Royal Air Force (RAF) communications aircraft; aircraft for Queen's Flight) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 16 1982 Nov 24 2013 Nov 20 10 Secret 254
PREM19/289 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Feb 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 110
PREM19/2558 Turkey (UK/Turkish relations) 1979 Nov 15 1987 Jul 8 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 192
PREM19/282 Ireland (Hunger strike at Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the ‘Dirty Protest’) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Dec 10 2010 Dec 30 2 Secret 245
PREM19/254 Home Affairs (Use of immigration rules to prevent scientologists entering UK; lifting of the ban) 1979 Nov 14 1980 Jul 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/195 Economic policy (Possible changes in the taxation of bank profits) 1979 Nov 14 1980 Mar 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 61
PREM19/2282 Japan (internal situation: economic reports; changes of Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 13 1986 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1279 Industrial policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 13 1984 Mar 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1339 Parliament (House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology: scientific advice to government; engineering research and development) 1979 Nov 12 1984 Oct 16 2014 Jan 3

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