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 Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/151 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 5) 1980 Aug 5 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 167
PREM19/1105 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London; inclusion of representative of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 4 1983 Feb 28 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 309
PREM19/3535 Security ​​​​​​​(Review of intelligence needs)​​​​​​​ 1980 Aug 3 1991 Oct 15 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3597 Egypt (Prime Minister's meetings with the Egyptian Ambassador) 1980 Aug 2 1991 Sep 17 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 46
PREM19/481 Government machinery (Advisory Council for Applied Research & Development (ACARD): reports on IT, computer-aided design & technological change; future of ACARD) (Part 2) 1980 Aug 1 1981 Dec 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 226
PREM19/3879 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament: televising the proceedings of the House of Commons) (Part 10) 1980 Aug 1 1992 Mar 25 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3758 Foreign Policy (Capital punishment in the Dependent Territories) 1980 Aug 1 1992 Mar 27 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 61
PREM19/793 Housing (Housing policy; Housing Act 1980; council house sales) (Part 2) 1980 Aug 1 1981 Sep 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 205
PREM19/4502 Vanuatu (UK/Vanuatu relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 29 1993 Apr 27 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/359 Security (Intelligence liaison) 1980 Jul 28 1980 Aug 4 Retained Unknown
PREM19/1741 Environemntal Affairs (Report on leak at Windscale: policy towards Sellafield; environmental pollution; report on incidence of cancer in west Cumbria; report of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 28 1986 Jul 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/807 Industrial policy (UK newsprint production: closure of Bowater's mill at Ellesmere Port) 1980 Jul 28 1982 Dec 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 254
PREM19/608 Italy (Prime Minister's visit to Italy, November 1980: Anglo/Italian Summit) 1980 Jul 25 1981 Feb 24 2011 Dec 30 Secret 86
PREM19/3109 Parliament (Meetings of the North Atlantic Assembly) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 24 1990 Jul 26 2017 Jul 20 10 Confidential 318
PREM19/1091 National health (Management inquiry into National Health Service (NHS) manpower and resources (led by Roy Griffiths of J Sainsbury plc); representations from Ralph Howell MP) 1980 Jul 22 1983 Jul 27 2013 Aug 1 Secret 208

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