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?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/2376 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: Select Committees) (Part 8) 1986 Jul 3 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 355
PREM19/361 Security (Case of Miss Lamble) 1979 Dec 7 1980 Jan 4 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2508 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 9) 1987 Sep 23 1987 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1722 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: grant aided schools; biased teaching and political indoctrination in schools and colleges) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 4 1986 Apr 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 431
PREM19/29 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 11 2009-12-30 Secret 347
PREM19/1379 Security (Article in ‘The Times’ by Edward Rowlands MP on the Labour Government and the Falkland Islands; disclosure of intelligence information and use of quotations from Cabinet Committee papers) 1983 Jan 17 1984 May 7 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 14
PREM19/1043 Government machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure; pay) (Part 2) 1980 Oct 10 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 201
PREM19/706 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 8) 1982 Jul 2 1982 Oct 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 136
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
PREM19/4801 North Korea (UK/North Korea relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1981 Aug 27 1994 Sep 5 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3275 Economic Policy (G7 Summits: 'Sherpa' papers) (Part 4) 1988 Aug 2 1991 Apr 19 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 312
PREM19/2283 Japan (Visits of Japanese CBI (Keidanren) to the UK, 1981 and 1986) 1981 Aug 24 1986 Oct 22 2016 Jul 21 Restricted 29
PREM19/2989 European Policy (UK air transport policy in Europe) 1979 Nov 8 1990 May 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2199 Government Machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 12 1987 Jun 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1640 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 3) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 347

Pages

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90