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 Endssort ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/2200 Government Machinery (Future of Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) and nuclear Royal Ordnance Factories; privatisation of Royal Ordnance Factories) 1980 Sep 22 1988 Jul 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3203 United Nations (Visits to London of Poul Hartling, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (Dec 1980) and his successor Jean-Pierre Hocke (May 1989)) 1980 Sep 19 1990 Jul 6 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 103
PREM19/174 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 7) 1980 Sep 19 1980 Dec 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 377
PREM19/2591 Botswana (Visits to the UK by President Masire of Botswana to Britain) 1980 Sep 18 1989 Jun 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3676 Economic Policy (National Savings) 1980 Sep 17 1992 Aug 4 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 78
PREM19/3467 Netherlands (Internal situation: UK/Dutch relations) (Part 1) 1980 Sep 16 1991 Nov 7 2017 Jul 20 4 Confidential 319
PREM19/312 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation (BSC); BSC finances and future shape under new chairman; problems of private sector steel firms) (Part 7) 1980 Sep 12 1980 Nov 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/251 Greece (Sale of coal fired power station) 1980 Sep 12 1980 Dec 29 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 128
PREM19/339 Prime Minister (Prime Minister’s visit to Dublin, December 1980: administrative arrangements) 1980 Sep 11 1980 Dec 19 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 58
PREM19/4337 Parliament (The Unemployment Debate: recall of Parliament) (Part 1) 1980 Sep 10 1993 Jul 29 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/746 European policy (European Commission Directive under Article 90 of Treaty of Rome concerning transparency of financial relations between member states and public undertakings) 1980 Sep 10 1982 Sep 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 15
PREM19/370 South Africa (Visit to UK by Dr Van Zyl Slabbert, leader of opposition, September 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Sep 9 1980 Oct 1 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 32
PREM19/923 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 2) 1980 Sep 8 1982 Oct 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 212
PREM19/2786 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industries pay) 1980 Sep 4 1989 May 16 2016 Dec 30 Secret 131
PREM19/466 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 4) 1980 Sep 4 1981 Sep 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256

Pages