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
PREM19/549 Nationalised industries (Prospects for the steel industry; British Steel Corporation (BSC) corporate plan; overlap between BSC and private sector; rationalisation of the UK engineering steel making facilities) (Part 9) 1981 Feb 17 1981 Apr 6 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 245
PREM19/209 Energy (Offshore supplies interest relief grants scheme; report on irregular payments) 1979 Sep 13 1980 Jun 2 2034 Jan 1 Retained (personal information)
PREM19/2214 Histories (Histories of Special Operations Executive (SOE)) 1980 May 1 1988 Nov 24 2015 Dec 30 Secret and Personal 32
PREM19/2918 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 11) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3383 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Registration of children's homes) 1979 Jun 7 1991 Jun 4 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1590 Overseas Aid (Renegotiation of Lome Convention: closure of Tate and Lyle sugar refinery in Liverpool) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 1 1985 Jan 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 175
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
PREM19/129 Vietnam (Vietnamese boat people) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1979 Jun 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 309
PREM19/1251 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme) (Part 15) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/916 Security (Resignation of Commander Michael Trestrail, Queen's Police Officer; homosexual relationship with male prostitute; investigation by Lord Bridge of Harwich into security aspects) 1982 Jul 19 1982 Nov 25 2013 Nov 20 Secret 82
PREM19/806 Industrial policy (Industrial action in the ports; future of Port of London Authority (PLA) and Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC)) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 18 1982 May 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 124
PREM19/470 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand, July and September 1981; Anglo-French Summit) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 20 1981 Sep 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret 262
PREM19/2738 Industrial Policy (Research and development, including European Community framework programme for research and development) (Part 7) 1989 Sep 1 1989 Dec 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2612 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: major Ministry of Defence (MOD) procurement projects; new tank for the Army) (Part 7) 1988 Nov 11 1989 Dec 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1856 National Health (Private Medical Care) 1979 May 22 1986 Feb 17 2015 Dec 30

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