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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/561 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland; state of emergency - martial law, December 1981) (Part 4) 1981 Aug 12 1981 Dec 18 2011 Dec 30 Secret 279
PREM19/221 European Policy (European Council Meeting, Luxembourg, 1-2 December 1980) (Part 5) 1980 Oct 24 1980 Dec 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 128
PREM19/2673 European Policy (European Convention on Human Rights) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 6 1989 Sep 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3535 Security ​​​​​​​(Review of intelligence needs)​​​​​​​ 1980 Aug 3 1991 Oct 15 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2040 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy; financial management; multi-department review of budgeting; equal opportunities in employment) (Part 20) 1986 Oct 3 1987 Mar 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2704 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 8 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1832 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations) (Part 6) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1489 European Policy (Prime Minister of Spain request for UK support for candidacy of Don Marcelino Oreja as Secretary-General of Council of Europe: Oreja's meeting with Prime Minister, January 1985) 1984 Jan 30 1985 Jun 5 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 53
PREM19/1154 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; trial of air force officers on sabotage charges; sale of Hunter aircraft; British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT); status of Joshua Nkomo in UK) (Part 3) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Oct 28 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 308
PREM19/141 Australia (Prime Minister’s televised telephone conversation with Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser to mark 50th anniversary of Australia’s first international telephone service) 1980 Apr 18 1980 Apr 21 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 28
PREM19/3055 Israel (The Prime Minister's meetings with Shimon Peres, leader of the Israeli Labour Party) 1980 May 5 1990 Nov 8 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/482 Government machinery (Reactivation of Civil Contingencies Unit in Cabinet Office: review of contingency planning; proposed Central Press Unit; use of TAVR during industrial disputes) (Part 1) 1979 May 29 1981 Mar 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 70
PREM19/3639 Deaths (Deaths of members of the Royal Family and former Prime Ministers) 1979 Jun 22 1992 Jun 16 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2414 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Weinstock) 1983 Jan 28 1987 Jun 12 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 33
PREM19/1894 Prime Minister (Meeting with Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and Tom Clarke MP to discuss future of Ravenscraig and Gartcosh steel mills) 1985 Jul 19 1986 Jan 29 2016 Feb 19

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