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 ascending File classification Pages
PREM19/1085 Local government (Water charges: Prime Minister's interest in measures to control rate of increase) Begins: 1981 Feb 13 Ends: 1983 Apr 12 Date of release: 2013-08-01 File classification: Confidential Pages: 36
PREM19/748 European policy (Trading relations between the European Community and Japan) Begins: 1980 Aug 27 Ends: 1982 Dec 15 Date of release: 2012-12-28 File classification: Confidential Pages: 69
PREM19/413 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 1) Begins: 1980 Sep 2 Ends: 1981 Dec 15 Date of release: 2011-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 176
PREM19/4669 Foreign Policy (The British Council) (Part 2) Begins: 1987 Aug 5 Ends: 1994 Aug 22 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/3795 Home Affairs (The right of silence) Begins: 1984 Sep 23 Ends: 1992 Jan 10 Date of release: 2017-12-29 File classification: Secret Pages: 72
PREM19/2336 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; Community Care Review) (Part 10) Begins: 1988 Feb 3 Ends: 1988 Feb 29 Date of release: 2016-07-21 File classification: Secret Pages: 236
PREM19/2395 Prime Minister (Cementation contract: Mark Thatcher and the Omanis) (Part 1) Begins: 1981 May 4 Ends: 1988 Mar 9 Date of release: Retained File classification: Closed for 65 years
PREM19/1684 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy: duties and responsibilities of civil servants; performance bonuses) (Part 19) Begins: 1986 May 2 Ends: 1986 Sep 30 Date of release: 2014-12-30
PREM19/1003 Economic policy (Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB): reports on salaries of senior civil servants, senior members of the armed services and judges; salaries of Members of Parliament) (Part 4) Begins: 1981 Nov 9 Ends: 1983 Apr 29 Date of release: 2013-08-01 File classification: Secret Pages: 204
PREM19/668 Cameroon (Visit to UK by President Ahmadou Ahidjo, April 1982; meeting with Prime Minister) Begins: 1980 Dec 1 Ends: 1982 May 20 Date of release: 2012-12-28 File classification: Confidential Pages: 124
PREM19/327 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 5) Begins: 1980 Apr 1 Ends: 1980 Oct 23 Date of release: 2010-12-30 File classification: Confidential Pages: 188
PREM19/4451 Solomon Islands (UK relations with the Solomon Islands) Begins: 1979 Jun 29 Ends: 1993 Aug 9 Date of release: 2018-12-28
PREM19/3983 USA (Calls on the Prime Minister by British Ambassadors to Washington) Begins: 1979 Jun 21 Ends: 1992 Apr 30 Date of release: 2017-12-29 File classification: Confidential Pages: 49
PREM19/2944 Economic Policy (Strategy) (Part 28) Begins: 1987 Dec 31 Ends: 1990 Sep 28 Date of release: 2016-12-30
PREM19/924 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit agreement; uranium enrichment contract; grain sales; controls on strategic exports) (Part 1) Begins: 1979 Sep 27 Ends: 1982 Mar 22 Date of release: 2012-12-28 File classification: Secret Pages: 235

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