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? File classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1070 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach; Anglo-Irish Summit; Anglo-Irish joint studies) (Part 6) 1981 Nov 9 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Secret 396
PREM19/1412 Aerospace (Future of British Airways (BA): BA privatisation and United States anti-trust suits; Laker Airways liquidation; airports policy) (Part 3) 1984 Nov 2 1985 Apr 3 2014 Dec 30 Secret 289
PREM19/1071 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 26 1983 Aug 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 183
PREM19/946 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with UK) 1981 Nov 12 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 217
PREM19/1413 Aerospace (Space policy: formation of British National Space Centre (BNSC)) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 20 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/1634 Security (Security Commission: review of security procedures; appointments; cases referred; 'Three Advisers' on appeals against positive vetting clearance refusals - terms of reference and procedures) 1981 Apr 1 1985 Sep 5 2014 Dec 30 Secret 253
PREM19/824 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 16 1982 Jul 10 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 345
PREM19/1504 Foreign Policy (Strategy on foreign policy and defence issues: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) resources) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 9 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 281
PREM19/25 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 17 1979 Jul 13 2009 Dec 30 Secret 167
PREM19/3465 Nationalised Industries ​​​​​​​(Policy towards the nationalised industries: financial control)(Part 11) 1986 Jun 2 1991 Feb 8 2017 Jul 20 Secret 404
PREM19/1039 Government machinery (Departments' programmes for next five years; preparation of 'forward look' reports) 1982 Sep 13 1983 Mar 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 73
PREM19/450 Egypt (Visit to UK by President Sadat, August 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Feb 25 1981 Aug 10 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 107
PREM19/792 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong: Prime Minister's visit to China; special briefing) 1982 Sep 6 1982 Sep 23 2012 Dec 28 Secret 317
PREM19/666 Cabinet (Cabinet committee structure and membership) (Part 1) 1979 May 6 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 144
PREM19/1474 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC): flotation of Britoil, BNOC oil-producing business) (Part 5) 1982 Jan 14 1985 Nov 12 2014 Dec 30 4 Secret 282

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