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
PREM19/964 Civil service (Manpower reductions in the Cabinet Office) 1979 Jul 20 1983 May 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 59
PREM19/288 Liberia (Visit to UK by President Tolbert, December 1979: meeting with Prime Minister) 1979 Jun 13 1980 Mar 5 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 141
PREM19/4180 Government Machinery (Amalgamation of the Departments of Trade and Industry) 1983 Jun 8 1993 Apr 24 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2938 Defence (Service exercises to test the transition to war and home defence procedures: Ministerial participation in NATO exercises) 1979 Jul 25 1990 Nov 26 2016 Dec 30 Secret UK Eyes A 94
PREM19/2180 Former Prime Minister (Proposed visit by Sir Harold Wilson to the Soviet Union) 1982 Oct 5 1986 Nov 19 2016 Jul 21 In Confidence 8
PREM19/2849 Security (Leak to The Observer relating to Westland plc) 1985 Dec 24 1989 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1221 European policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, March 1984) (Part 17) 1983 Jul 8 1984 Mar 22 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 306
PREM19/884 Prime Minister (Meetings with Geoffrey Robinson MP to discuss redundancies in Jaguar factories in Coventry) 1981 Jun 1 1982 Jan 21 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 28
PREM19/548 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; the Iron and Steel Bill; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan) (Part 8) 1980 Dec 4 1981 Feb 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 155
PREM19/208 Energy (Coking coal: National Coal Board grant; British Steel Corporation imports) 1979 Jul 23 1980 Sep 8 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 52
PREM19/2762 Local Government​​​​​​​ (Relations between central and local government: local authority expenditure) (Part 36) 1988 Aug 2 1989 May 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3551 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(New Russian Embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens: Operation Brunch; proposed site for Ambassador's residence in Moscow)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1979 Dec 1 1991 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2528 South Africa (Report of the Erasmus Commission on alleged irregularities in the South African Department of Information; resignation of President John Vorster; European Community Erasmus programme (student exchange programme)) 1979 Jun 6 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 12
PREM19/2023 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and their effect on broadcasting policy) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 6 1988 Jun 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2689 Foreign Policy (Policy towards bilateral summits) 1988 Mar 28 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30

Pages