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
PREM19/3843 Local Government (Pay of water industry workers and local authority manual workers: West Glamorgan Fire Brigade industrial dispute) (Part 4) Begins: 1983 May 3 Ends: 1992 Nov 27 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Secret Pages: 238
PREM19/2306 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 7) Begins: 1987 Jul 1 Ends: 1987 Jul 31 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19 File classification: Confidential Pages: 206
PREM19/3027 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism; Football Spectators Bill; Taylor Report on the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster) (Part 8) Begins: 1989 Feb 2 Ends: 1990 Jan 31 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2275 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 4) Begins: 1985 Nov 6 Ends: 1988 Jan 27 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1333 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 12) Begins: 1984 Sep 2 Ends: 1984 Sep 20 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Secret Pages: 313
PREM19/995 Economic policy (Liaison Committee on presentation of government policies; nuclear opinion poll; guidance to Ministers and MPs) (Part 3) Begins: 1982 Dec 1 Ends: 1984 Oct 8 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Confidential Pages: 322
PREM19/660 Argentina (Falklands) Begins: 1982 Apr 8 Ends: 1982 Apr 12 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Sec 3.4. Reconsideration in 2022 File classification: Unknown
PREM19/319 Overseas Aid (Aid Policy Review: 1979-1980 and 1980-1981 aid programmes) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jun 19 Ends: 1980 Feb 20 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 188
PREM19/4281 Legal Procedures (Bail Act 1976) (Part 1) Begins: 1987 Mar 20 Ends: 1993 Apr 27 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3383 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Registration of children's homes) Begins: 1979 Jun 7 Ends: 1991 Jun 4 Date of release: Date of release: Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3077 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 24) Begins: 1990 Aug 20 Ends: 1990 Aug 23 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 370
PREM19/2200 Government Machinery (Future of Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) and nuclear Royal Ordnance Factories; privatisation of Royal Ordnance Factories) Begins: 1980 Sep 22 Ends: 1988 Jul 26 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2889 United Nations (International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference, Nice, 1989) Begins: 1989 May 1 Ends: 1989 Jun 22 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2066 Defence (Intelligence gathering operations) (Part 3) Begins: 1985 Jan 9 Ends: 1987 Jan 21 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1590 Overseas Aid (Renegotiation of Lome Convention: closure of Tate and Lyle sugar refinery in Liverpool) (Part 2) Begins: 1981 Mar 1 Ends: 1985 Jan 29 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 175

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