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
PREM19/842 Middle East (Arms sales & military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 2) 1981 Apr 2 1982 Sep 15 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret - UK Eyes A 275
PREM19/506 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland; the 'Dirty Protest') (Part 5) 1981 Jul 3 1981 Aug 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 335
PREM19/166 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 9) 1980 Mar 3 1980 Jul 2 2010 Dec 30 Secret 184
PREM19/2911 Austria (UK/Austrian relations: internal situation; Waldheim Report) 1981 Dec 24 1990 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3605 Agriculture (Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowances (HLCAs)​​​​​​​) 1979 Nov 20 1992 Dec 10 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 51
PREM19/2617 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 6) 1989 Apr 3 1989 May 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1778 Government Machinery (Departmental responsibility for national standards and international trade) 1981 Dec 7 1986 Oct 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/85 Ireland (Information policy - correspondence with HRH Prince of Wales) 1979 Nov 16 1979 Dec 17 2020 Jan 1 Unknown
PREM19/1099 Parliament (Future of Concorde aircraft; financial aspects; discussions with French) 1980 Dec 12 1983 Mar 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 289
PREM19/762 Germany (Anglo-German relations; exchanges between Chancellor Schmidt and the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 6 1982 Feb 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 271
PREM19/427 Economic policy (Policy towards the pay review bodies: Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB), Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB), Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB)) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 1 1981 Jan 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 161
PREM19/4585 Cambodia (UK/Cambodian relations: internal situation) (Part 2) 1988 Dec 19 1994 Oct 31 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3781 Government Machinery (The tourism industry: Government support for tourism; 'Tourism in the UK: Realising the Potential') (Part 2) 1990 Jun 30 1992 Mar 20 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 267
PREM19/2349 National Health (Seminars on health and social security matters: Social Security Reviews) (Part 2) 1984 Jul 6 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 278
PREM19/3158 Scotland (Regional policy: industrial policy; Scottish Enterprise) (Part 2) 1988 Dec 1 1990 Nov 14 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 261

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