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 ascending File classification Pages
PREM19/2620 Disasters (Disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, 15 April 1989) (Part 1) 1989 Apr 15 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 289
PREM19/2111 Economic Policy (Bank takeovers and mergers; takeover bids for Royal Bank of Scotland Group, 1981) 1981 Apr 8 1987 Jul 6 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 97
PREM19/2750 Japan (UK/Japanese relations: Nissan (UK) exports to Europe; UK-Japan 2000 Group) (Part 8) 1988 Jul 1 1989 Aug 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1514 Government Machinery (Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 3) 1982 Jan 18 1985 Oct 7 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 259
PREM19/1178 Civil service (Introduction of new technology; computer procurement; agreement with unions) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 28 1984 Dec 20 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 312
PREM19/841 Memorials (Holocaust Memorial; proposal from Board of Deputies of British Jews) 1980 Apr 24 1982 Feb 16 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 59
PREM19/505 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the 'Dirty Protest') (Part 4) 1981 May 20 1981 Jul 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 336
PREM19/165 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 8) 1980 Jan 29 1980 Feb 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 176
PREM19/2912 Bangladesh (Visit to UK by General Ershad, Chief Martial Law Administrator, June 1982: visit by President Ershad, February 1989; Prime Minister's meeting with Foreign Minister, Anisul Islam Mahmud, June 1990) 1982 Jun 7 1990 Oct 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3606 Agriculture (Agricultural and food research)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1990 Jun 4 1992 Jan 20 2017 Dec 29 Unclassified 46
PREM19/1932 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base; the science budget; the Engineer and Technology Programme; increase in graduate engineers and technologists; review of involvement in European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN)) (Part 4) 1985 Jul 2 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2616 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 5) 1984 Jul 5 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1777 Government Machinery (Possible transfer of responsibility for VAT Tribunals from Customs and Excise to the Lord Chancellor: dePartmental responsibility for tribunals) 1985 Apr 1 1986 Dec 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/84 Ireland (Intervention by Governor Carey of New York State) 1979 Aug 1 1979 Aug 24 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 62
PREM19/1098 Parliament (House of Commons procedure; review of working of Departmental Select Committees; Select Committee inquiry into positive vetting; Select Committee interest in records of security and intelligence agencies) (Part 5) 1981 Sep 7 1983 Mar 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 261

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