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? File classification Pages Link to selectionssort descending
PREM19/585 Science and technology (Exploiting invention; problems faced by inventors in securing commercial exploitation; Prime Minister's reception for innovators and financiers, January 1981) 1980 Aug 22 1981 Jan 31 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 241
PREM19/587 Security (Proposed BBC Panorama programme on British intelligence services) 1980 Jun 18 1981 Feb 3 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret 58
PREM19/589 Security (Lord Kagan) 1980 Dec 15 1981 Apr 16 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 19
PREM19/592 Security (Panorama programme on the KGB (Soviet Committee for State Security)) 1981 Apr 14 1981 Oct 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 8
PREM19/593 Security (Leaks about Civil Contingencies Unit (CCU) to Peter Hennessy of 'The Times'; investigation) 1980 Jul 17 1981 Feb 19 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 36
PREM19/594 Security (Prosecution of John Wagstaff under Official Secrets Act; investigation by Security Commission) 1980 May 13 1981 May 8 2012 Feb 22 Secret 123
PREM19/595 Security (Leak to 'The Times' of Cabinet proceedings on public expenditure) 1981 Oct 21 1981 Oct 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 18
PREM19/596 Social services (Rayner Study on arrangements for paying social security benefits) (Part 2) 1980 Oct 8 1981 May 12 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 76
PREM19/597 South Africa (Situation in Namibia) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 1 1981 Jul 20 2011 Dec 30 Secret 344
PREM19/598 Trade (Britain's international trading policies; non-tariff barriers; effects on UK industry of open trading system) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1981 Oct 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 167
PREM19/599 Transport (Railway policy: rail fares; reference of London commuter services to Monopolies and Mergers Commission; British Rail finances; services to Gatwick airport; pay negotiations; industrial action by National Union of Railwaymen) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 24 1981 Aug 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 177
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
PREM19/601 USA (Arrangements for Prime Minister's visit to USA, February 1981) (Part 2) 1981 Feb 25 1981 Sep 3 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 152
PREM19/602 Vatican (Possible visit to UK by the Pope in 1982) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 26 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 23 Confidential 187
PREM19/603 Venezuela (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Dr Zambrano Valesco, June 1981) 1981 May 8 1981 Jun 26 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 26

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