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
PREM19/2768 Local Government​​​​​​​ (Water industry: structural change; privatisation of the water authorities) (Part 6) 1988 Dec 6 1989 Aug 24 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3564 Spain (Visits to the UK by Spanish Foreign Ministers) 1981 Aug 17 1991 May 8 2032 Jan 1
PREM19/2003 VWindward Islands (UK/Windward Island relations) 1985 Jan 31 1985 Feb 15 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2676 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 1 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30 Secret 376
PREM19/1813 Ireland (DeLorean sports cars) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 1 1986 Jan 21 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 310
PREM19/1470 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: White Paper on Better Schools; Green Paper on Higher Education) (Part 5) 1985 Mar 1 1985 Aug 27 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 283
PREM19/122 South Africa (Plessey Radar contract - poss breach UN embargo) 1979 Aug 1 1979 Sep 10 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 42
PREM19/1136 Security (Case of Geoffrey Prime, former member of Government Communications Headquarters) 1982 Jun 3 1983 Jun 30 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/463 European policy (European Council meeting in London, November 1981) (Part 8) 1981 Oct 13 1981 Nov 24 2011 Dec 30 Secret 250
PREM19/3100 NATO (NATO Ministerial meetings) 1979 May 31 1990 May 30 2017 Jul 20 Secret 212
PREM19/3669 Economic Policy (Competition policy: restrictive trade practices policy; abuse of market power)​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1986 Mar 3 1992 Jan 24 2017 Dec 29 Secret 583
PREM19/2390 Posts and Telecommunications (Pay negotiations in the Post Office and British Telecom (BT): industrial action) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 3 1987 Aug 14 2016 Jul 21 Secret 249
PREM19/1636 Security (Leak to press on expulsion of Soviet Embassy officials in April 1985) 1985 Apr 18 1985 Jun 17 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1734 Egypt (Visits to the UK by Prime Ministers, Dr Mustafa Khalil and Dr Ali Loutfi: meetings with the Prime Minister) 1979 Oct 22 1986 Sep 16 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 55
PREM19/41 Elections (Briefing for incoming PM) 1979 May 4 1979 May 7 2009 Dec 30 Secret 93

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