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? File classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/1690 Defence (Public opinion and public debate on nuclear weapons issues) 1982 Oct 18 1986 May 12 2014 Dec 30 2 Secret 241
PREM19/1266 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 15) 1984 Jul 2 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3 3 Secret 241
PREM19/2286 Japan (Vredeling Proposal on labour relations in the European Community; trade links between the European Community, USA and Japan) 1983 Dec 2 1988 Mar 11 2016 Dec 30 8 Confidential 241
PREM19/3085 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 32) 1990 Oct 22 1990 Oct 31 2017 Jul 20 11 Top Secret - Cab One 241
PREM19/585 Science and technology (Exploiting invention; problems faced by inventors in securing commercial exploitation; Prime Minister's reception for innovators and financiers, January 1981) 1980 Aug 22 1981 Jan 31 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 241
PREM19/167 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 10) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Oct 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/1453 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 32) 1985 May 10 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/525 Manpower (Unemployment and young people; industrial training; Employment and Training Bill - Enterprise Zones; measures against unemployment) (Part 4) 1981 Apr 3 1981 Jul 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 242
PREM19/851 Nationalised industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control; objectives; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) study of the state monopolies) (Part 7) 1982 Jul 1 1982 Dec 31 2012 Dec 28 Secret 242
PREM19/1204 Economic policy (Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB) reports on salaries of senior civil servants, senior members of the armed services and judges; salaries of Members of Parliament; TSRB pension awards) (Part 5) 1983 May 3 1984 Feb 27 2014 Jan 3 Secret 242
PREM19/95 National Health Service (Doctors' and Dentists' pay) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jul 27 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 242
PREM19/1431 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Nassau, Bahamas, October 1985) (Part 9) 1984 Jun 18 1985 Oct 13 2014 Dec 30 Secret 242
PREM19/2163 European Policy (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Sir James Scott-Hopkins, leader of European Democratic Group (EDG) in European Parliament: meetings with Conservative members of EDG) 1979 Jul 1 1987 Feb 11 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Personal 242
PREM19/2366 New Zealand (Internal situation: UK/New Zealand relations; Robert Muldoon succeeded as Prime Minister by David Lange; Labour government's ban on visits by nuclear-armed warships; sinking of Greenpeace vessel by French agents in Auckland harbour) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 20 1988 May 6 2016 Dec 30 1 Confidential 242
PREM19/764 Germany (Chancellor Schmidt's visit to the UK, March 1982: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Parts 4 & 5) 1982 Mar 1 1982 May 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 242

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