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
PREM19/1841 Manpower (Rayner Scrutiny of payment of benefits to the unemployed people: study by Department of Employment and Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS)) (Part 1) 1980 Oct 16 1982 May 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/289 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Feb 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 110
PREM19/1499 Foreign Policy (Briefing for Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) 1985 Apr 4 1985 Apr 13 2014 Dec 30 Secret 318
PREM19/1163 Aerospace (Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Review; airline competition policy; position of British Caledonian and other independent airlines) (Part 2) 1984 Mar 5 1984 Sep 27 2014 Jan 3 Secret 313
PREM19/826 Legal procedure (UK Bill of Rights; Lord Wade's Bill) 1979 Dec 11 1982 Mar 31 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 56
PREM19/4180 Government Machinery (Amalgamation of the Departments of Trade and Industry) 1983 Jun 8 1993 Apr 24 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3417 Kenya ​​​​​​​(UK/Kenya relations: internal situation)(Part 1) 1979 Jun 8 1991 Oct 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2906 Angola (Visit to the UK by Angolan Ambassador in Brussels, Fernando Van Dunem, May 1980: possible visits of President dos Santos) 1980 May 8 1990 Mar 18 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 31
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
PREM19/2423 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir Fergus Montgomery MP and Tom Sackville MP to discuss Manchester Airport, 21 April 1988) 1988 Mar 15 1988 Apr 22 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 29
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)
PREM19/1903 Prime Minister (Meeting with Warren Hawksley MP to discuss procurement of Thyssen TM170 armoured personnel carriers for Berlin) 1986 Jan 6 1986 Feb 4 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2573 Yugoslavia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 17 1988 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1762 France (Visits to UK by President Mitterrand) (Part 5) 1985 Oct 16 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1419 Agriculture (Liquid milk prices: milk marketing) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 18 1985 Jun 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 279

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