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
PREM19/303 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity prices; financial targets and energy pricing policy) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 28 1980 Mar 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 231
PREM19/2493 Security (Links between Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and other terrorist organisations: People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine operations in London) 1979 Sep 28 1988 Mar 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/335 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments and regional visits) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Jan 11 2010 Dec 30 Secret 240
PREM19/3865 NATO Visits to the UK by the Secretary General of NATO 1979 Sep 27 1992 Jun 3 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/278 Iraq (Internal situation: relations with Iran; escalation of conflict; impact of Iraq/Iran hostilities on oil market) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 27 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 361
PREM19/924 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit agreement; uranium enrichment contract; grain sales; controls on strategic exports) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 27 1982 Mar 22 2012 Dec 28 Secret 235
PREM19/2242 India (Visits to UK by Indian Ministers of Commerce) 1979 Sep 26 1988 Dec 1 2016 Dec 30 1 Confidential covering Secret 43
PREM19/905 Scotland (Scottish Milk Marketing Board (SMMB): correspondence with Dr W G Jack about SMMB’s decision to extend the operation of its tanker fleet) 1979 Sep 26 1982 Jan 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 161
PREM19/1421 Australia (Anglo-Australian relations: internal situation; trading relations with the EEC) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 26 1985 Dec 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 317
PREM19/2742 Industrial Policy (Policy towards employee involvement: profit sharing and share options) 1979 Sep 25 1989 Oct 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/537 National health (Doctors' and dentists' pay; report of Review Body; consultants' contracts) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 25 1981 May 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/3209 USA (Presentation of American awards to the Prime Minister, including the William J Donovan Award) 1979 Sep 25 1990 Jan 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3060 Kenya (Relations between Kenya and Uganda) 1979 Sep 24 1990 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/612 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 21 1981 Dec 15 2012 Dec 28 Secret 94
PREM19/295 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 21 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 250

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