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
PREM19/1755 European Policy (European Institute of Public Administration at Maastricht) 1981 Nov 19 1986 Aug 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/62 Government machinery (Rayner review) (Part 3) 1979 Sep 17 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 255
PREM19/1412 Aerospace (Future of British Airways (BA): BA privatisation and United States anti-trust suits; Laker Airways liquidation; airports policy) (Part 3) 1984 Nov 2 1985 Apr 3 2014 Dec 30 Secret 289
PREM19/1076 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 5A) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Dec 4 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 220
PREM19/404 Civil service (Pay and pensions: public sector pay policy; Civil Service pay dispute; industrial action; establishment of independent inquiry) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 10 1981 Nov 5 2011 Dec 30 Secret 347
PREM19/4333 New Zealand (Visits to the UK by New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange and his successor Jim Bolger) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 6 1993 Mar 11 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3815 Iraq (Exports to Iraq (Scott Inquiry)) (Part 4) 1990 Oct 18 1992 Nov 19 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3063 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 16) 1990 Jan 2 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30 Secret 336
PREM19/2332 National Health (Mortgages for NHS staff in London) 1987 Dec 11 1987 Dec 11 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 3
PREM19/1675 Australia (Visits of Australian Prime Ministers to London: Malcolm Fraser (February 1980 and July 1981) and Robert Hawke (June 1983 and April 1986); meetings with the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 21 1986 Apr 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/994 Economic policy (Panamanian freight tax) 1983 Dec 30 1984 Apr 2 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 37
PREM19/659 Argentina (Compensation for the requisition of shipping and for civilian losses during the Falklands campaign) 1982 Jun 17 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 49
PREM19/4328 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 16) 1989 Dec 18 1993 Jan 20 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/660 Argentina (Falklands) 1982 Apr 8 1982 Apr 12 Retained Unknown
PREM19/319 Overseas Aid (Aid Policy Review: 1979-1980 and 1980-1981 aid programmes) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1980 Feb 20 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 188

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