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
PREM19/4502 Vanuatu (UK/Vanuatu relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 29 1993 Apr 27 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1741 Environemntal Affairs (Report on leak at Windscale: policy towards Sellafield; environmental pollution; report on incidence of cancer in west Cumbria; report of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 28 1986 Jul 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/807 Industrial policy (UK newsprint production: closure of Bowater's mill at Ellesmere Port) 1980 Jul 28 1982 Dec 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 254
PREM19/359 Security (Intelligence liaison) 1980 Jul 28 1980 Aug 4 Retained Unknown
PREM19/608 Italy (Prime Minister's visit to Italy, November 1980: Anglo/Italian Summit) 1980 Jul 25 1981 Feb 24 2011 Dec 30 Secret 86
PREM19/3109 Parliament (Meetings of the North Atlantic Assembly) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 24 1990 Jul 26 2017 Jul 20 10 Confidential 318
PREM19/1091 National health (Management inquiry into National Health Service (NHS) manpower and resources (led by Roy Griffiths of J Sainsbury plc); representations from Ralph Howell MP) 1980 Jul 22 1983 Jul 27 2013 Aug 1 Secret 208
PREM19/358 Security (Article by Duncan Campbell in New Statesman on US National Security Agency (NSA) activities at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Jul 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 11
PREM19/218 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 6) 1980 Jul 18 1980 Nov 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 207
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
PREM19/191 Economic policy (Proposal for a national investment trust to promote wider property ownership: report by Leo Pliatzky, July 1980) 1980 Jul 17 1980 Dec 23 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 59
PREM19/1236 Foreign policy (Meeting of South Pacific Forum; correspondence with Bob Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia, on a single regional organisation in South Pacific) 1980 Jul 17 1984 Apr 24 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 36
PREM19/265 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 6) 1980 Jul 17 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 251
PREM19/593 Security (Leaks about Civil Contingencies Unit (CCU) to Peter Hennessy of 'The Times'; investigation) 1980 Jul 17 1981 Feb 19 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 36
PREM19/795 Housing (Review of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977) 1980 Jul 16 1982 Apr 7 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 50

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