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
PREM19/3222 Belize (Dispute with Guatemala) (Part 3) 1983 Mar 1 1991 Sep 2 2024 Jan 1
PREM19/3824 Ireland (Brian Nelson: public interest issues and protection of intelligence sources and methods​​​​​​​) 1990 Sep 1 1992 Dec 14 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2318 Manpower (Special employment measures: White Paper 'Training for Employment') (Part 18) 1987 Dec 1 1988 Feb 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 245
PREM19/3062 Local Government (Corre from Sir John Sainsbury on planning controls; general planning inquiries; future of development plans; Planning Bill) (Part 7) 1989 Sep 4 1990 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 320
PREM19/2327 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 17) 1987 Oct 2 1988 Feb 29 Review 2027 Retained under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1671 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 6) 1986 Aug 1 1986 Nov 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1330 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 9) 1984 Apr 3 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 270
PREM19/992 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 24) 1983 Jun 6 1983 Aug 25 2013 Aug 1 Secret 431
PREM19/657 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (Franks): documentation seen by PM, extracted from PREM19 files and copied to the Committee) (Part 2) 1982 Jan 7 1982 Apr 2 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 119
PREM19/3369 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: Next Steps initiative; future of Deregulation Initiative) (Part 35) 1990 Aug 1 1991 Jan 28 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 322
PREM19/317 New Hebrides (Independence; security situation; disturbances on Santo; Anglo/French consultations; dispatch of military forces) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Jul 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 64
PREM19/2910 Australia (Visits to the UK by Australian Foreign Ministers: Anthony Street, William Hayden and Gareth Evans) 1981 Feb 16 1990 Dec 10 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2084 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 16) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Jun 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1587 New Zealand (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Robert Muldoon and David Lange) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1985 Mar 4 2014 Dec 30 Top Secret 283
PREM19/1248 Government machinery (Review of government statistical services, study led by Sir Derek Rayner; control of government statistical surveys) 1979 Oct 10 1984 Mar 6 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 320

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