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 Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3052 Ireland (Renewal of Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978; consideration of section 12 (detention); reviews of the Act; Government's security policy in Northern Ireland) 1980 Jun 25 1990 Nov 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/161 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1980 Jan 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 129
PREM19/680 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 10) 1982 May 12 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 314
PREM19/2326 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 16) 1987 Mar 5 1987 Sep 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
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
PREM19/1670 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 5) 1986 Mar 3 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1329 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 8) 1983 May 4 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 301
PREM19/3373 Government Machinery ​​​​​​​(Shareholding in British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL): future of BNFL; BNFL pay negotiations) 1981 Feb 19 1991 Jul 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3079 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 26) 1990 Aug 30 1990 Aug 31 24 Jul 2018
PREM19/1271 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 24 1984 Jan 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2210 Government Machinery (Possible transfer of functions between departments) 1987 Jan 30 1987 May 21 2015 Dec 30 Secret and Personal 55
PREM19/936 Transport (Armitage Report on Lorries, People and the Environment; draft White Paper) (Part 1) 1979 May 15 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 197
PREM19/2908 Arts and Amenities (Future of the British Library: Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Trend and Sir Frederick Dainton and Minister for the Arts, Richard Luce) 1979 Aug 21 1990 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/600 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1981: meeting with President Reagan) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Feb 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 311
PREM19/2080 Economic Policy (Budget) (Part 17) 1987 Oct 2 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21

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