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
PREM19/289 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Feb 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 110
PREM19/1087 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 22 1983 Jan 31 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 353
PREM19/164 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 7) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Secret 178
PREM19/2457 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Venice Economic Summit, June 1987: administrative arrangements) 1986 Oct 30 1987 Aug 4 2016 Jul 21 6 Secret 85
PREM19/622 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 11) 1982 Apr 27 1982 Apr 29 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 288
PREM19/963 China (Sino/British relations; defence sales) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 341
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
PREM19/134 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 1) 1979 Dec 17 1980 Jan 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 280
PREM19/589 Security (Lord Kagan) 1980 Dec 15 1981 Apr 16 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 19
PREM19/931 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay dispute) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 4 1982 Feb 9 2012 Dec 28 Secret 264
PREM19/2090 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Venice, June 1987) (Part 23) 1987 Jun 1 1988 Feb 17 2016 Dec 30 2 Secret 401
PREM19/1152 USA (United States foreign policy; nuclear non-proliferation) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 21 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Secret 339
PREM19/1494 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 4) 1983 Oct 27 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 315
PREM19/228 European Policy (Prime Minister’s meetings with President of European Commission, Roy Jenkins) 1979 May 10 1980 Nov 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 192
PREM19/683 Defence (Purchase by Ministry of Defence of aircraft for conversion to aerial tanker and freighter roles) 1982 Dec 2 1982 Dec 14 2012 Dec 28 Secret 27

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