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 descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3084 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 31) 1990 Oct 9 1990 Oct 21 2017 Jul 20 Top Secret - Cab One 324
PREM19/2200 Government Machinery (Future of Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) and nuclear Royal Ordnance Factories; privatisation of Royal Ordnance Factories) 1980 Sep 22 1988 Jul 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2894 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong; resettlement in the UK) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 3 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2069 Defence (Nuclear release procedures) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1577 Nationalised Industries (Prospects for steel industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) future strategy; plant closures) (Part 12) 1983 Jul 7 1985 Aug 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/1240 (main part) France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand; meeting of Franco-British Council; Prime Minister's meetings with Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy and Minister for European Affairs Roland Dumas) (Part 3) 1981 Sep 11 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Top Secret 327
PREM19/903 Science and Technology (Higher education and new technologies; manpower and technology transfer; Prime Minister’s lunch for industry representatives) 1982 Mar 25 1982 Apr 2 2012 Dec 28 Restricted 17
PREM19/567 Prime Minister (Meeting with Stephen Ross MP regarding closure of Elliott Turbomachinery Ltd in Cowes) 1981 Apr 30 1981 Jul 3 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 28
PREM19/227 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 9) 1980 Jun 4 1980 Sep 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 196
PREM19/3366 Government Machinery ​​​​​​​(Correspondence from Members of Parliament (MPs))(Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1991 Jun 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2574 Zambia (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Kebby Musokatwane, September 1987) 1980 May 30 1987 Sep 7 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 23
PREM19/2717 Home Affairs (Data protection: computer hacking) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 12 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1838 Local Government (Water industry: structural change) (Part 3) 1985 Dec 2 1986 Apr 21 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 265
PREM19/1160 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; annexes to report by Professor Patrick Minford, 'UK unemployment - analysis and policy proposals') (Part 8C) 1982 Sep 6 1983 Jan 29 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 355
PREM19/147 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 10 1980 Apr 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162

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