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 Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/64 Government machinery (Judges' expenses) 1979 Oct 19 1979 Oct 30 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 10
PREM19/3231 Canada ​​(Calls on the Prime Minister by Canadian High Commissioners; appointment of Canadian High Commissioners) 1979 Oct 19 1991 Sep 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/671 Civil service (Dispersal programme) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 19 1982 Jun 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 244
PREM19/52 European policy (European Council, Dublin Nov 1979) (Part 2) 1979 Oct 19 1979 Dec 7 2009 Dec 30 Secret 300
PREM19/806 Industrial policy (Industrial action in the ports; future of Port of London Authority (PLA) and Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC)) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 18 1982 May 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 124
PREM19/1064 Industrial policy (Companies Bill; purchase by a company of its own shares; wider share ownership) 1979 Oct 18 1983 May 26 2013 Aug 1 3 Confidential 176
PREM19/1002 Economic policy (Prime Minister's meetings with clearing bank chairmen) 1979 Oct 17 1983 Feb 2 2013 Aug 1 Secret 84
PREM19/848 National health (Nurses' and midwives' pay; report of Standing Commission on Pay Comparability (Clegg report)) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 17 1982 Jan 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 201
PREM19/2032 Cambodia (Internal situation: derecognition of Pol Pot regime; Prince Sihanouk) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 16 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1063 Industrial policy (Future of Times newspapers: sale by Thomson Organisation; purchase by Rupert Murdoch's News International) 1979 Oct 16 1983 Jul 18 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 111
PREM19/2865 South Africa (Visits to the UK by the South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha) 1979 Oct 16 1989 Mar 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/760 France (Anglo-French relations; Prime Minister's meetings with President Giscard d'Estaing and President Mitterrand) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 15 1982 Mar 25 2012 Dec 28 6 Secret 268
PREM19/522 Malta (Visits to UK by Dr Edward Fenech Adami, leader of Maltese opposition Nationalist Party, November 1979 and June 1981: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 Oct 12 1981 Jun 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 27
PREM19/1166 Angola (Internal situation; appointment of Jose Eduardo dos Santos as President; UK/Angolan relations) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 12 1984 Mar 22 2014 Jan 3 Secret 291
PREM19/379 Trade (United States synthetic fibre exports to UK; problems of the UK clothing and textile industry) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 12 1980 Jun 27 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 165

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