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
PREM19/2776 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 19) 1989 Jan 23 1989 Feb 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1890 Prime Minister (Meeting with Geoffrey Dickens MP about child welfare and protection, 30 January 1986) 1986 Jan 15 1986 Feb 21 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/680 Civil service (Long term management and manpower policy) (Part 10) 1982 May 12 1982 Jul 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 314
PREM19/1297 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 6) 1983 Dec 30 1984 Feb 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2847 Security (Access to classified documents and information by individuals and allied countries) 1984 Aug 2 1989 Dec 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3590 Vietnam ​​​​​​​(Vietnamese refugees)​​​​​​​ (Part 5) 1989 Jul 12 1991 Oct 30 2032 Jan 1
PREM19/406 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 8 1981 Jul 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 288
PREM19/642 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 31) 1982 Nov 1 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 292
PREM19/1964 Social Services (National Insurance contributions review; National Insurance surcharge; Redundancy Fund) 1979 Nov 5 1985 Nov 7 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2638 Economic Policy (VAT zero rates: infraction proceedings; European Court of Justice judgment) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 12 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1793 Home Affairs (The 1978 annual report by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC): financing of the NSPCC) 1979 Jul 2 1986 Jan 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1450 Drugs (Drug misuse: prevention; proposed legislation) (Part 1) 1982 Nov 19 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 252
PREM19/1216 Environmental affairs (Environmental policy: reports of Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution; industrial pollution and acid rain; possible British initiative) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 4 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 267
PREM19/320 Pakistan (Visit to UK by Agha Shahi, Foreign Minister, June 1980: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Jun 12 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 70
PREM19/561 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland; state of emergency - martial law, December 1981) (Part 4) 1981 Aug 12 1981 Dec 18 2011 Dec 30 Secret 279
PREM19/116 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 11) 1979 Dec 2 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 443
PREM19/2365 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 30 1988 Nov 14 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/302 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 27 1980 Mar 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 145
PREM19/2499 Security (RAF fixed telecommunications system) 1988 Mar 29 1988 Jul 21 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/908 Security (Information provided to Sunday Times by a former Security Service officer) 1982 Jan 24 1982 Jan 25 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/1713 Economic policy (Private direct investment overseas: British representation at United States conference on private sector initiatives) 1984 Jan 19 1986 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 132
PREM19/1370 Science and technology (Prime Minister’s seminar on science, technology, and industry, September 1983) (Part 1) 1982 Dec 22 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1137 Security (Seizure of Iranian Embassy in South Kensington and the taking of hostages, April-May 1980) 1980 Apr 30 1983 Feb 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 70
PREM19/3917 Royal Family (Marriage and separation of Prince Andrew) 1986 Mar 1 1992 Mar 21 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/36 Economic policy (Invisibles in trade figures) 1979 Sep 6 1979 Oct 26 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 67

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