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
PREM19/3470 New Zealand (Calls on the Prime Minister by the New Zealand High Commissioners) 1979 Jul 3 1991 Jun 3 2017 Jul 20 Secret 46
PREM19/343 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 13) 1980 Jan 12 1980 Jan 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/690 Defence (Defence sales; sale of HMS Invincible to Royal Australian Navy) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 15 1982 Nov 4 2012 Dec 28 Secret 276
PREM19/1375 Security (Custody contacts of persons accused of security offences, following arrest of Security Service officer Michael Bettaney) 1984 May 1 1984 Jul 13 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 20
PREM19/2099 Economic Policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor of the Exchequer) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 3 1988 Aug 22 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 246
PREM19/221 European Policy (European Council Meeting, Luxembourg, 1-2 December 1980) (Part 5) 1980 Oct 24 1980 Dec 4 2010 Dec 30 Secret 128
PREM19/1127 Security (Intelligence organisation, priorities of intelligence agencies; appointment of Chairman Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), membership of JIC) 1982 Dec 20 1983 Mar 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 46
PREM19/1128 Security (Possibility of secure telephone link between Washington, London, Paris and Bonn) 1979 Oct 29 1983 Oct 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 28
PREM19/1469 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: White Paper on Schools) (Part 4) 1984 Jan 3 1985 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 327
PREM19/4051 Defence (Strategic food stockpile) 1979 Jun 20 1993 Feb 22 2018 Jul 24 Secret 119
PREM19/1000 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 9) 1982 Nov 1 1983 Apr 6 2013 Aug 1 Secret 188
PREM19/1344 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; draft licence for British Telecom (BT)) (Part 7) 1983 Apr 12 1984 Jan 11 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 370
PREM19/1693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 7) 1985 Aug 1 1986 Feb 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 390
PREM19/3186 Soviet Union (Situation of Jews in the Soviet Union: Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry; Prime Minister's meeting with Ida Nudel; Raoul Wallenberg) (Part 2) 1987 Feb 10 1990 Jun 20 2016 Dec 30 5 Secret 169
PREM19/2364 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 30 1988 Nov 14 2016 Jul 21 Secret 278

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