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 Endssort ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/131 Zaire (Call on MT by Foreign Minister of) 1979 Nov 11 1979 Nov 13 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 23
PREM19/17 Defence (Accidental US nuclear alert) 1979 Nov 10 1979 Nov 16 2009 Dec 30 Secret 9
PREM19/1126 Saudi Arabia (Saudi/UK relations; internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 9 1983 Dec 23 2013 Aug 1 7 Secret 342
PREM19/808 Industrial policy (Financial difficulties of Massey Ferguson Ltd: industrial and employment consequences of collapse) 1979 Nov 8 1982 Oct 8 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 72
PREM19/2989 European Policy (UK air transport policy in Europe) 1979 Nov 8 1990 May 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/127 United States (MT visit to Washington - policy, December 1979) 1979 Nov 8 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 301
PREM19/1291 Ireland (European Commission of Human Rights: case of Farrell v. UK) 1979 Nov 7 1984 Aug 1 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/529 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 6 1981 Mar 31 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 209
PREM19/203 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 3) 1979 Nov 5 1980 Feb 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 264
PREM19/1964 Social Services (National Insurance contributions review; National Insurance surcharge; Redundancy Fund) 1979 Nov 5 1985 Nov 7 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3570 Tonga ​​​​​​​(UK/Tonga relations: centenary of Anglo-Tongan Treaty of Friendship) 1979 Nov 1 1991 Nov 6 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/114 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 9) 1979 Nov 1 1979 Nov 18 2009 Dec 30 Secret 295
PREM19/3420 Labour Party ​​​​​​​(Speeches and interviews given by Labour MPs) 1979 Nov 1 1991 Jun 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2934 Defence (War widows' pensions) 1979 Nov 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30 Secret 97
PREM19/338 Prime Minister (Meeting with Sir Horace Cutler to discuss Greater London Council (GLC) matters, December 1979) 1979 Oct 31 1980 Mar 18 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 63

Pages