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
PREM19/97 Nationalized industries (Steel) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1979 Nov 12 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 133
PREM19/2078 Drugs (Drugs misuse: Visit to South America by David Mellor, Minister of State at the Home Office; cooperation between Police and Customs) (Part 3) 1985 Oct 2 1987 May 15 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1584 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry legislation: investment and financing review; privatisation; report on state monopolies) (Part 9) 1984 Jun 4 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 299
PREM19/910 Security (Publication of book by Gordon Welchman (former head of Hut 6) called 'The Hut Six Story' on wartime German Enigma cryptanalysis: reactions of US and UK governments) 1982 Apr 30 1982 Jul 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 8
PREM19/3396 Industrial Policy ​​​​​​​(Research and development, including European Community framework programme for research and development)(Part 8) 1990 Jan 2 1991 Mar 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/389 Agriculture (Liquid milk prices) 1979 May 16 1981 Mar 11 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 168
PREM19/3006 Germany (Visit to London by Count Otto Lambsdorff, Chairman of the FDP (Free Democrats), January 1990) 1979 May 17 1990 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/17 Defence (Accidental US nuclear alert) 1979 Nov 10 1979 Nov 16 2009 Dec 30 Secret 9
PREM19/2871 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by General Dimitri Yazov, Soviet Defence Minister, July 1989) 1989 Jun 16 1989 Aug 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1845 Defence (Defence Budget) (Part 11) 1984 Apr 16 1985 May 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1503 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong and USA, December 1984: briefing) 1984 Sep 12 1985 Mar 25 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 215
PREM19/830 Local government (The water industry: structural change; constitution of Welsh Water Authority; review of land drainage and flood protection) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 31 1982 Oct 4 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 240
PREM19/2695 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 4) 1986 Oct 3 1989 Aug 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3539 Social Services ​​​​​​​(Change in the pension age) 1989 Jun 9 1991 Jan 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2557 Transport (Policy on roads: White Paper; review of the roads programme) (Part 3) 1986 Dec 12 1988 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 244

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