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
PREM19/1568 Manpower (Employment policy: measures to counter unemployment; education and training for 14 to 18 year olds; Youth Training Scheme (YTS)) (Part 11) 1984 Nov 1 1985 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 238
PREM19/924 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit agreement; uranium enrichment contract; grain sales; controls on strategic exports) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 27 1982 Mar 22 2012 Dec 28 Secret 235
PREM19/2666 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 33) 1989 Jun 23 1989 Jun 27 2017 Jul 20 Secret 348
PREM19/1242 France (Prime Minister's visits to France; meetings with President Mitterrand; Anglo-French Summits) (Part 3) 1982 Sep 21 1984 Apr 18 2014 Jan 3 Secret 370
PREM19/3535 Security ​​​​​​​(Review of intelligence needs)​​​​​​​ 1980 Aug 3 1991 Oct 15 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/410 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Melbourne, September-October 1981: procedure; attendance; agenda) (Part 3) 1981 May 19 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Secret 200
PREM19/113 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 8) 1979 Oct 11 1979 Oct 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 342
PREM19/599 Transport (Railway policy: rail fares; reference of London commuter services to Monopolies and Mergers Commission; British Rail finances; services to Gatwick airport; pay negotiations; industrial action by National Union of Railwaymen) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 24 1981 Aug 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 177
PREM19/2040 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy; financial management; multi-department review of budgeting; equal opportunities in employment) (Part 20) 1986 Oct 3 1987 Mar 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2703 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 7 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1830 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; United States response to Libyan terrorism) (Part 4B) 1984 Apr 12 1986 Apr 16 2014 Dec 30 Retained under Section 3:4
PREM19/1487 European Policy (Dean Dove Ltd: provision of financial assistance by Department of Trade and Industry, in breach of European Community guidelines) 1985 Jan 10 1985 Jan 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/844 Ministers (Ministerial travel overseas: general policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 191
PREM19/3042 Industrial Policy (Future of the Rover Group: National Audit Office report on the sale of the Rover Group) (Part 16) 1989 Jan 7 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1163 Aerospace (Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Review; airline competition policy; position of British Caledonian and other independent airlines) (Part 2) 1984 Mar 5 1984 Sep 27 2014 Jan 3 Secret 313

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