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
PREM19/3137 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Bermuda, April 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Mar 9 1990 Jul 12 2017 Jul 20 11 Secret 223
PREM19/1335 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 14) 1984 Oct 20 1984 Nov 20 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 333
PREM19/1426 China (Visit to UK by Chinese Prime Minister, Zhao Ziyang, June 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 Jul 19 1985 Jun 21 2014 Dec 30 Secret 285
PREM19/181 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; possible industrial disputes; the pay round) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 19 1980 Jun 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 164
PREM19/869 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions; Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay; report by Select Committee) (Part 4) 1980 Dec 3 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 165
PREM19/1212 Education (Future of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)) (Part 3) 1980 Dec 5 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 212
PREM19/3214 Aerospace (Aerospace policy: future and structure of British Airways; merger of British Airways and British Caledonian; airports in the South East; British Aerospace (BAe)) (Part 6) 1987 Jan 6 1991 Feb 18 2017 Jul 20 Secret 285
PREM19/57 France (MT visits to, Paris June 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Aug 28 2009 Dec 30 Secret 172
PREM19/1651 Transport (London Underground dispute, June 1979: reactivation of Civil Contingencies Unit; arbitration; London Transport pay; threatened London Underground and bus strikes) 1979 May 31 1985 May 20 2014 Dec 30 Secret 122
PREM19/1520 Home Affairs (Review of the law on public order: Green Paper) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1985 Jan 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 323
PREM19/274 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 4) 1980 Jan 9 1980 Jan 30 2010 Dec 30 3 Secret 213
PREM19/621 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 23 1982 Apr 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 300
PREM19/962 China (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong & Japan, September 1982: policy) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 13 1983 Feb 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 186
PREM19/3419 Kuwait (Visits of the Amir of Kuwait: visits of Shaikh Saad, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Kuwait) (Part 1) 1982 Dec 21 1991 Oct 5 2017 Jul 20 8 Secret 201
PREM19/838 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) Unemployment Study) (Part 7) 1982 Apr 30 1982 Aug 20 2012 Dec 28 Secret 230

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