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.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1200 Economic policy (International banking system) (Part 3) 1983 Sep 1 1984 Feb 24 2014 Jan 3 Secret 338
PREM19/1542 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 11) 1984 Apr 5 1985 Jan 14 2014 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/45 Energy (British National Oil Corporation & BP shares)(Part 2) 1979 Sep 13 1979 Dec 21 2009 Dec 30 Secret 267
PREM19/1765 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl) (Part 15) 1983 Nov 11 1986 May 28 2015 Dec 30 Secret 276
PREM19/262 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 3 1980 Feb 14 2010 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/609 Vatican (Visit to UK by the Pope, May-June 1982) (Part 2) 1981 Nov 10 1982 Jun 9 2011 Dec 30 19 Secret 153
PREM19/950 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 32) 1982 Dec 1 1983 Mar 2 2013 Aug 1 17 Secret 360
PREM19/1641 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 4) 1984 Oct 1 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 358
PREM19/486 Immigration (The Nationality Bill) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 26 1981 Oct 29 2011 Dec 30 Secret 150
PREM19/356 Security (Leak of documents on defence expenditure to Press Association) 1980 Oct 23 1980 Dec 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 84
PREM19/1045 Government machinery (Future of Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS); CPRS work programme for 1982; Prime Minister's dissatisfaction with CPRS; abolition of CPRS) 1981 Dec 24 1983 Jul 25 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 238
PREM19/106 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 30 1979 May 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 321
PREM19/1011 Education (Wider parental choice; education vouchers) 1982 Nov 5 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 205
PREM19/326 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 15 1980 Mar 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 191
PREM19/2375 Overseas Aid (Sale of BAe 748 to Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT)) 1984 Dec 4 1987 Nov 26 2016 Jul 21 Secret 22

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