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
PREM19/1621 Security (Publication of 'British Intelligence and Covert Action' by Jonathan Bloch and Patrick Fitzgerald: security issues; Bloch's UK refugee residency status; protection of intelligence identities) 1983 Mar 9 1985 Oct 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1281 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 10) 1983 Mar 4 1984 Apr 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3393 India ​​​​​​​(Visit to the UK by Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, October 1985)(Part 3) 1985 Aug 8 1991 Aug 15 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/608 Italy (Prime Minister's visit to Italy, November 1980: Anglo/Italian Summit) 1980 Jul 25 1981 Feb 24 2011 Dec 30 Secret 86
PREM19/2581 Sri Lanka (Visits to UK by Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa, July 1987; possible visit by President Jayawardene) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 7 1988 Sep 6 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 147
PREM19/169 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 12) 1980 Nov 11 1980 Nov 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/2721 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: industrial action by the Prison Officers Association; private sector involvement in the remand system) (Part 4) 1987 Nov 2 1989 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
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
PREM19/1200 Economic policy (International banking system) (Part 3) 1983 Sep 1 1984 Feb 24 2014 Jan 3 Secret 338
PREM19/2682 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 6) 1988 Dec 2 1989 Nov 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/863 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening of Parliament) (Part 4) 1981 Oct 26 1982 Oct 26 Closed until 2023-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/3537 Security ​​​​​​​(Ministerial protection (personal): security arrangements for the overnight policing of Ministers' cars; VIP security)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1987 Oct 2 1991 Jul 26 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/527 Manpower (Housing policy and labour mobility: National Mobility Scheme) 1980 Jul 7 1981 Jul 23 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 56
PREM19/88 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1979 Oct 8 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 101
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

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