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
PREM19/786 Hong Kong (Prime Minister's meetings with Sir Yue-Kong Pao, Chairman of World-wide Shipping Group) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1982 Jan 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 164
PREM19/451 Egypt (Visits to UK by Vice President Mubarak in June 1979, May 1980 and September 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) 1979 May 29 1980 Sep 8 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 156
PREM19/2922 Civil Service (Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions) (Part 4) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3612 Austria ​​​​​​​(Visits to the UK by Chancellor Kreisky and his successor Chancellor Vranitsky) 1980 Jun 27 1992 Oct 12 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/29 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 11 2009-12-30 Secret 347
PREM19/1778 Government Machinery (Departmental responsibility for national standards and international trade) 1981 Dec 7 1986 Oct 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2837 Science and Technology (Consideration of British candidates for Nobel Prizes for science) 1989 Apr 11 1989 Apr 13 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 6
PREM19/1435 Defence (Celebration of 40th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day) 1984 Oct 2 1985 May 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 189
PREM19/706 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 8) 1982 Jul 2 1982 Oct 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 136
PREM19/2166 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 36) 1987 Apr 22 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 252
PREM19/1099 Parliament (Future of Concorde aircraft; financial aspects; discussions with French) 1980 Dec 12 1983 Mar 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 289
PREM19/370 South Africa (Visit to UK by Dr Van Zyl Slabbert, leader of opposition, September 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Sep 9 1980 Oct 1 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 32
PREM19/2816 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris to attend the Economic Summit, July 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 May 31 1989 Aug 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3201 United Nations ​​​​​​​(United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD): Common Fund for Commodities) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 5 1990 May 2 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1698 Diplomatic Misions (Armed protection for British government representatives overseas: carriage of arms by bodyguards of VIP visitors) 1980 Jan 8 1986 Apr 6 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 122

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