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
PREM19/833 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Parts 10 and 11) 1982 Apr 16 1982 Jun 10 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 254
PREM19/497 Iraq (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister Dr Saadoun Hammadi, March 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Nov 13 1981 Mar 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 35
PREM19/2939 Downing Street (Functions of the Prime Minister's Office) 1987 Jun 2 1990 Mar 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3615 Belgium (Visits to the UK by Belgian Prime Ministers, Wilfried Mertens and Jean-Luc Dehaene) 1979 Jun 29 1992 Jun 22 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/352 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 106-109) 1979 Dec 15 1979 Dec 15 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 148
PREM19/2429 Prime Minister (Possible defamation of the Prime Minister by the Radio 4 'Today' programme) 1988 Jan 18 1988 Jan 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2591 Botswana (Visits to the UK by President Masire of Botswana to Britain) 1980 Sep 18 1989 Jun 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1769 Government Machinery (Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD)) (Part 4) 1986 Mar 5 1986 Dec 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1426 China (Visit to UK by Chinese Prime Minister, Zhao Ziyang, June 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 Jul 19 1985 Jun 21 2014 Dec 30 Secret 285
PREM19/1090 National health (National Health Service (NHS) pay dispute; pay determination process in NHS) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 7 1983 Aug 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 193
PREM19/753 European policy (European Council meeting, Luxembourg, April 1980: briefing papers) 1980 Apr 10 1982 Apr 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 324
PREM19/3207 USA ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visits to the USA) (Part 9) 1990 Feb 5 1990 Aug 8 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3790 Home Affairs (Report of inspectors appointed under section 432(2) of the Companies Act 1985 to investigate the affairs of House of Fraser Holdings plc)​​ (Part 6) 1990 Mar 2 1992 Jan 8 2030 Jan 1
PREM19/273 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 3) 1979 Dec 23 1980 Jan 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/2338 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review) (Part 12) 1988 May 4 1988 May 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 370

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