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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2031 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; Broadcasting White Paper) (Part 6) 1988 Jan 4 1988 Sep 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/645 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 3) 1982 Apr 23 1982 Apr 29 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 91
PREM19/2700 Government Buildings (Purchase of government accommodation in the Whitehall area) 1983 Jul 23 1989 Sep 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/304 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity prices; financial targets and energy pricing policy) (Part 2) 1979 Mar 26 1980 Oct 2 2010 Dec 30 Secret 164
PREM19/1766 Gibraltar (Policy towards Gibraltar: discussions with Spanish under Lisbon and Brussels Agreements) (Part 5) 1984 Apr 6 1986 Oct 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1423 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 5) 1982 Feb 11 1985 Jun 14 2014 Dec 30 Secret 263
PREM19/3059 Japan (Visits of Noboru Takeshita, Prime Minister of Japan (May 1988) and his successor Toshiki Kaifu (January 1990)) (Part 2) 1987 Dec 11 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/750 European policy (European Council meeting in Brussels, March 1982: briefing papers) 1982 Mar 16 1982 Mar 26 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 208
PREM19/564 Prime Minister (Meeting with Gavin Strang MP to discuss redundancies at Bruntons of Musselburgh) 1981 Feb 16 1981 Mar 17 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 14
PREM19/3648 Defence (UK strategic nuclear deterrent: nuclear test programme)​​​​​​​ (Part 10) 1990 Nov 6 1992 May 12 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/224 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 6) 1980 Feb 26 1980 Mar 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 153
PREM19/2410 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Browne MP, 21 October 1986: discussion of proposed M3 extension around Winchester. Note:Â With maps) 1981 Dec 7 1987 Apr 10 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 72
PREM19/1868 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control) (Part 10) 1985 Mar 21 1986 May 27 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2545 Soviet Union (Visits to UK by President Gorbachev) (Part 1) 1987 Nov 20 1988 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1686 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring: report by Sir Geoffrey Wardale on fraud in the PSA) (Part 1) 1982 Jul 22 1986 Aug 5 2014 Dec 30

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