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 releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/306 Nationalised Industries (Privatisation) (Part 2) Begins: 1980 Feb 21 Ends: 1980 Oct 17 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 150
PREM19/181 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; possible industrial disputes; the pay round) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Jul 19 Ends: 1980 Jun 19 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Secret Pages: 164
PREM19/274 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 4) Begins: 1980 Jan 9 Ends: 1980 Jan 30 Date of release: 2010-12-30 Any docs withheld? 3 File classification: Secret Pages: 213
PREM19/151 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 5) Begins: 1980 Aug 5 Ends: 1980 Sep 30 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 167
PREM19/373 Spain (EEC fishing licences for Spanish fishermen) Begins: 1980 Jan 28 Ends: 1980 Feb 8 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 18
PREM19/335 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments and regional visits) (Part 2) Begins: 1979 Sep 27 Ends: 1980 Jan 11 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Secret Pages: 240
PREM19/214 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 2) Begins: 1979 Oct 29 Ends: 1980 Jan 31 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 185
PREM19/307 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 2) Begins: 1979 Nov 28 Ends: 1980 Jan 7 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 258
PREM19/182 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; transitional problems; arbitration arrangements; comparability and cash limits) (Part 2) Begins: 1980 Jun 25 Ends: 1980 Oct 29 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Secret Pages: 193
PREM19/275 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; negotiations for release of hostages; sanctions) Part 5 Begins: 1980 Feb 1 Ends: 1980 Apr 8 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Secret Pages: 203
PREM19/152 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 6) Begins: 1980 Oct 1 Ends: 1980 Nov 14 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Secret Pages: 182
PREM19/374 Sport (UK participation in Moscow Olympic Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Jan 8 Ends: 1980 Mar 6 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Secret Pages: 251
PREM19/336 Prime Minister (Meeting with delegation from British Chamber of Commerce on trade union immunities) Begins: 1980 Apr 24 Ends: 1980 Jun 5 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 34
PREM19/337 Prime Minister (Meeting with delegation from Kingston upon Hull on 24 April 1980 to discuss problems of the fishing industry) Begins: 1980 Apr 1 Ends: 1980 May 1 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Restricted Pages: 75
PREM19/215 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 3) Begins: 1980 Feb 5 Ends: 1980 Mar 10 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Secret Pages: 116

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