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 release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/476 Government machinery (Organisation of Treasury and Civil Service Department (CSD); consideration of a 'Prime Minister's Department') (Part 4) 1981 May 20 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 227
PREM19/1161 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment) (Part 9) 1983 Feb 1 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 400
PREM19/346 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 16) 1980 Feb 29 1980 Mar 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/1036 Germany (Prime Minister's visits to Germany: meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl) (Part 4) 1982 Oct 28 1983 Oct 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 226
PREM19/2526 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 16) 1988 Jun 2 1988 Aug 26 2017 Dec 29 8 Secret 289
PREM19/224 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 6) 1980 Feb 26 1980 Mar 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 153
PREM19/445 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Ottawa) (Part 6) [Part 5 of this file has been destroyed] 1981 Feb 2 1981 Jul 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/786 Hong Kong (Prime Minister's meetings with Sir Yue-Kong Pao, Chairman of World-wide Shipping Group) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1982 Jan 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 164
PREM19/1002 Economic policy (Prime Minister's meetings with clearing bank chairmen) 1979 Oct 17 1983 Feb 2 2013 Aug 1 Secret 84
PREM19/317 New Hebrides (Independence; security situation; disturbances on Santo; Anglo/French consultations; dispatch of military forces) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 64
PREM19/3187 St Lucia (UK/St Lucia relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 29 1990 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30 2 Secret 70
PREM19/1223 European policy (European Council meeting, Dublin, December 1984) (Part 19) 1984 Nov 28 1984 Dec 24 2014 Jan 3 Secret 209
PREM19/2897 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 18) 1989 Jan 3 1989 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/1097 Parliament (Legislative programme, 1983-1984) (Part 10) 1982 Nov 9 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 151
PREM19/285 Israel (Visit to UK by Yigael Yadin, Deputy Prime Minister, March 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Mar 3 1980 Apr 3 2010 Dec 30 Secret 19

Pages