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? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/2460 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to USA and Jamaica, July 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 12 1987 Sep 4 2016 Jul 21 7 Secret 104
PREM19/2775 National Health (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)) (Part 2) 1987 Jan 14 1989 Dec 15 2017 Jul 20 6 Secret 354
PREM19/276 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; US mission to release hostages; sanctions) (Part 6) 1980 Apr 9 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Secret 244
PREM19/623 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 12) 1982 Apr 30 1982 May 2 2012 Dec 28 Secret 231
PREM19/3806 Industrial Policy (Ports: national dock strike in 1989; privatisation of Trust Ports) (Part 6) 1989 Jun 1 1992 Mar 10 2017 Dec 29 Secret 310
PREM19/1655 USA (Visits to UK by George Shultz, US Secretary of State: meetings with Prime Minister) 1982 Apr 9 1985 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30 6 Secret 271
PREM19/154 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: action to reduce size of Civil Service and staff costs; Civil Service pay; early retirement) (Part 4) 1980 Mar 5 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 273
PREM19/28 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 30 1979 Oct 18 2009 Dec 30 Secret 114
PREM19/717 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 19) 1982 Mar 12 1982 Jul 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 337
PREM19/1060 India (Orissa steel plant) 1982 Jan 11 1983 Aug 5 2013 Aug 1 Secret 106
PREM19/1402 USA (Visit to UK by US Ambassador to the United Nations, Mrs Jeane Kirkpatrick, April 1984: meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Mar 23 1984 Oct 16 2014 Jan 3 Secret 69
PREM19/933 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail unions' threatened industrial action; contingency planning) (Part 4) 1982 May 10 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Secret 283
PREM19/3866 Netherlands (Visits to the UK by Ruud Lubbers, Dutch Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1986 Sep 11 1992 Dec 23 2017 Dec 29 1 Secret 253
PREM19/469 France (Visit to UK by President Giscard d'Estaing, November 1979: Anglo-French Summit) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 11 1981 Mar 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 190
PREM19/2102 Economic Policy (Policy towards privatisation; disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 16) 1987 Apr 1 1988 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30 Secret 333

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