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?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/1991 Transport (Channel Fixed Link (Channel Tunnel); Euroroute) (Part 4) 1985 Jan 2 1986 Jan 31 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1208 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 16A) 1984 May 22 1984 May 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 212
PREM19/871 Poland (Internal situation; state of emergency - martial law) (Part 5) 1981 Dec 19 1982 Jan 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 305
PREM19/535 Middle East (Prime Minister's visits to Kuwait and Bahrain, September 1981: meetings with Rulers and Ministers) 1981 Apr 15 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 151
PREM19/195 Economic policy (Possible changes in the taxation of bank profits) 1979 Nov 14 1980 Mar 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 61
PREM19/2791 Nigeria (Visit to UK by President Babangida, May 1989) (Part 2) 1989 Mar 8 1989 Jun 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3576 Transport (Compulsory use of car seat belts)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1991 Jun 25 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 83
PREM19/2478 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; national priorities for science and technology) (Part 6) 1987 Sep 7 1987 Dec 31 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 265
PREM19/1986 Trade (Commodity policy; International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines; Select Committee report on the tin crisis; renegotiation of international rubber and cocoa agreements) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Oct 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2664 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 43) 1989 Oct 2 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1806 Industrial policy (Short Borthers Ltd) 1980 Nov 6 1986 Aug 1 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 280
PREM19/114 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 9) 1979 Nov 1 1979 Nov 18 2009 Dec 30 Secret 295
PREM19/1464 Economic policy (Countering tax fraud and evasion: report on the black economy) 1981 Feb 16 1985 Jun 3 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 123
PREM19/1129 Security (Publication of book containing accounts of National Security Agency) 1982 Mar 14 1983 May 5 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/792 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong: Prime Minister's visit to China; special briefing) 1982 Sep 6 1982 Sep 23 2012 Dec 28 Secret 317

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