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
PREM19/1311 Manpower (Strategy for industry and employment; reducing the burden of regulation on the economy; Chequers seminar on employment) (Part 1) 1983 Feb 15 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3267 Dubai ​​​​​​​(UK/Dubai relations; Prime Minister's call on Shaikh Rashid of Duba, June 1981) 1981 Jun 19 1986 Aug 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3871 Pakistan (Internal situation: UK/Pakistan relations) (Part 2) 1987 Aug 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2876 Tanzania (Visits to the UK of President Julius Nyerere and President Ali Hassan Mwinyi) 1979 Aug 20 1989 Apr 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2059 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 8) 1987 Jan 8 1987 Jul 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1231 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 27) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3411 Jamaica ​​​​​​​(Visits by Jamaican Prime Ministers)(Part 1) 1982 May 1 1991 Jun 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2701 Government Machinery (Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 2 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1829 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; release of UK hostages) (Part 4A) 1985 Feb 1 1986 Apr 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2739 Industrial Policy​​​​​​​ (Ports: abolition of the National Dock Labour Scheme; industrial action in the ports) (Part 14) 1987 Jul 3 1989 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3548 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(Contacts with and calls by Soviet Ambassadors)​​​​​​​ 1979 Sep 18 1991 Dec 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1891 Prime Minister (Meeting with Dr An Wang, Chairman of Wang Laboratories, 7 October 1983) 1983 Aug 10 1986 Jan 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1750 European Policy (European Community Budget: report on UK applications for European Regional Development Grants) (Part 33) 1984 Oct 1 1986 Sep 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1407 Zaire (Visits to UK by President Mobutu, December 1981 and September 1984: meetings with Prime Minister) 1981 Nov 19 1984 Dec 4 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3092 National Health ​​​​​​​( Industrial action in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS workers pay (except nurses)) (Part 3) 1984 Mar 9 1990 Jan 29 2017 Jul 20

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