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 Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/585 Science and technology (Exploiting invention; problems faced by inventors in securing commercial exploitation; Prime Minister's reception for innovators and financiers, January 1981) 1980 Aug 22 1981 Jan 31 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 241
PREM19/268 Industrial policy (Consultations with Trades Union Congress (TUC) on economic strategy; Prime Minister’s meetings with TUC representatives) (Part 3) 1980 Aug 20 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 227
PREM19/1771 Government Machinery (Review of administrative forms) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 14 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/498 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland; force levels) (Part 8) 1980 Aug 12 1981 Feb 25 2011 Dec 30 1 Top Secret - UK eyes A 224
PREM19/507 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Charles Haughey); Anglo-Irish joint studies) (Part 3) 1980 Aug 11 1981 Mar 5 2011 Dec 30 Secret 275
PREM19/271 Industrial policy (Industrial support) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 8 1980 Oct 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 84
PREM19/3984 USA (United States nuclear defence strategy: US defence policy) 1980 Aug 6 1992 May 28 Temporarily Retained by Department
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) 1980 Aug 5 1980 Sep 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 167
PREM19/1105 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London; inclusion of representative of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 4 1983 Feb 28 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 309
PREM19/3535 Security ​​​​​​​(Review of intelligence needs)​​​​​​​ 1980 Aug 3 1991 Oct 15 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3597 Egypt (Prime Minister's meetings with the Egyptian Ambassador) 1980 Aug 2 1991 Sep 17 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 46
PREM19/481 Government machinery (Advisory Council for Applied Research & Development (ACARD): reports on IT, computer-aided design & technological change; future of ACARD) (Part 2) 1980 Aug 1 1981 Dec 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 226
PREM19/3879 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament: televising the proceedings of the House of Commons) (Part 10) 1980 Aug 1 1992 Mar 25 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3758 Foreign Policy (Capital punishment in the Dependent Territories) 1980 Aug 1 1992 Mar 27 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 61
PREM19/793 Housing (Housing policy; Housing Act 1980; council house sales) (Part 2) 1980 Aug 1 1981 Sep 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 205

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