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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/109 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 4) 1979 Jul 31 1979 Aug 9 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 226
PREM19/1683 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy: control of civil service running costs; duties and responsibilities of civil servants; performance bonus experiment; budgeting in government dePartments) (Part 18) 1985 Sep 10 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/889 Prime Minister (Meeting with John Opel, President of International Business Machines (IBM), concerning investment in the UK) 1982 May 21 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 28
PREM19/1340 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening) (Part 5) 1982 Oct 27 1984 Oct 31 Retained Retained
PREM19/553 Overseas aid (Renegotiation of Lome Convention; closure of Tate and Lyle refinery in Liverpool; effect on African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar suppliers) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 252
PREM19/451 Egypt (Visits to UK by Vice President Mubarak in June 1979, May 1980 and September 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) 1979 May 29 1980 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 156
PREM19/3986 USA (Visits to the UK by Richard Nixon) 1980 Apr 9 1992 May 18 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 11
PREM19/29 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 11 2009-12-30 Secret 347
PREM19/2941 Economic Policy (Brandt Commission memorandum 'Common Crisis': 'Facing One World', report by an Independent Group on Financial Flows to Developing Countries) (Part 5) 1983 Jan 27 1990 Sep 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2098 Economic Policy (Pension funds) 1987 Mar 24 1987 Jul 30 2016 Jul 21
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
PREM19/1598 Police (Police pay) 1979 May 8 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/810 Industrial policy (Impact of government on industry; Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Trenchard, Minister of State, Department of Industry) 1979 Jul 6 1982 Nov 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 72
PREM19/1258 Government machinery (Appointment of Sir Anthony Parsons and Roger Jackling as advisers to Prime Minister on foreign affairs and defence policy respectively; improvements to joint intelligence machinery post Falklands Conflict) 1982 Aug 6 1984 Jan 18 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3332 Food ​​​​​​​(Food safety)(Part 4) 1990 May 1 1991 Aug 9 2017 Jul 20

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