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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/945 Vatican (Vatican delegation to Heads of State about nuclear weapons; meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Jan 29 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 59
PREM19/610 Aerospace (British Midland Airways: services to Glasgow and Edinburgh) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Jul 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 20
PREM19/269 Industrial policy (Micro-electronics industry; support for Inmos Ltd (INMOS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 137
PREM19/4090 Economic Policy (Policy on small firms: Local Enterprise Agencies) (Part 7) 1987 Jul 8 1993 Dec 31 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3456 Middle East ​​​​​​​(Conclusions of the Ad Hoc Group on the Gulf (AHGG)) 1990 Nov 5 1991 Feb 14 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2803 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Basil Hersov, President of the South African Institute of Directors, February 1989) 1988 Jun 8 1989 Mar 1 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/2153 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, November 1981: meetings with Social Partners - European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and European Community Employers' Association (UNICE)) 1981 Oct 29 1987 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 120
PREM19/2790 New Zealand (Visits to the UK of New Zealand Leaders of the Opposition: David Lange and Jim Bolger) 1984 Jan 9 1989 Aug 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1956 Sierra Leone (Visits to UK by President Stevens, November 1980, and President Momoh, March 1986: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 9 1986 Mar 5 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 139
PREM19/1538 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland: privatisation of UniPart; collaboration with Honda) (Part 9) 1984 Apr 1 1985 Jul 7 2014 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/1202 Economic policy (Review of policy on film finance; taxation of film industry; films policy review) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1984 Dec 13 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 247
PREM19/865 Parliament (Legislative programme 1982-1983) (Part 9) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Oct 28 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 118
PREM19/189 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Venice) (Part 4) [Part 5 of this file has been destroyed] 1980 Jun 20 1980 Aug 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 189
PREM19/2814 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Frankfurt for the Anglo-German Summit, February 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Dec 19 1989 Mar 13 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1978 Sport (Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, July 1986) 1985 Aug 1 1986 Dec 19 2016 Feb 19 Confidential 215

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