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? File classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/823 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1982; proposed technology agreement) (Part 1) Begins: 1981 Jan 28 Ends: 1982 Sep 20 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 Any docs withheld? 2 File classification: Confidential Pages: 368
PREM19/1182 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 4) Begins: 1983 Sep 21 Ends: 1984 Jun 29 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 369
PREM19/1834 Local Government (Correspondence from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls: general planning enquiries) (Part 3) Begins: 1986 Jul 23 Ends: 1986 Dec 23 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 369
PREM19/3069 Manpower (Special employment measures: future of the Employment Service; training policy) (Part 22) Begins: 1989 Aug 1 Ends: 1990 Jan 23 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 369
PREM19/1560 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance; Chequers meeting on Community Charge) (Part 26) Begins: 1985 Mar 1 Ends: 1985 May 31 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 369
PREM19/1242 France (Prime Minister's visits to France; meetings with President Mitterrand; Anglo-French Summits) (Part 3) Begins: 1982 Sep 21 Ends: 1984 Apr 18 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Secret Pages: 370
PREM19/3102 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 4) Begins: 1989 Nov 27 Ends: 1990 Jun 27 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Secret Pages: 370
PREM19/2338 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review) (Part 12) Begins: 1988 May 4 Ends: 1988 May 29 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Secret Pages: 370
PREM19/3154 Science and Technology (Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD): reports on biotechnology) Begins: 1980 Jan 28 Ends: 1990 Nov 8 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Confidential Pages: 370
PREM19/1344 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; draft licence for British Telecom (BT)) (Part 7) Begins: 1983 Apr 12 Ends: 1984 Jan 11 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Secret Pages: 370
PREM19/530 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 5) Begins: 1980 Sep 1 Ends: 1981 Apr 30 Date of release: 2011 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 370
PREM19/3132 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, September 1990: administrative arrangements) Begins: 1989 Dec 1 Ends: 1990 Oct 18 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 8 File classification: Confidential Pages: 370
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
PREM19/3691 Economic Policy (Reports of the Pay Review Bodies: review of the Office of Manpower Economics (OME)) (Part 11) Begins: 1990 Feb 1 Ends: 1992 Jan 24 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Secret Pages: 370
PREM19/1580 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 17) Begins: 1985 Mar 1 Ends: 1985 May 31 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 372

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