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
PREM19/1752 European Policy (European Council meeting, Luxembourg, December 1985) (Part 24) 1985 Nov 26 1986 Jan 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/248 Government Machinery (Special advisers; appointment procedure; pay) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 27 1980 May 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 235
PREM19/1409 Aerospace(Presentation on United States manned space station at Lancaster House during London Economic Summit, 1984) 1984 Mar 20 1984 Jun 6 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 17
PREM19/1073 Japan (Commercial relations with Japan; effects of Japanese imports on the European car industry; possible Nissan investment in UK) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 22 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 295
PREM19/736 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 9) 1981 Nov 20 1982 Mar 30 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 133
PREM19/3229 Cabinet ​​​​​​​(Forward look for Cabinet and Cabinet committee business)(Part 3) 1986 Jan 17 1991 Jan 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3825 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 6) 1990 Oct 1 1992 Feb 6 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2315 Manpower (Special employment measures: employment and training programmes and organisation) (Part 15) 1986 Nov 4 1987 Apr 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 352
PREM19/3046 Iraq (UK/Iraq relations) (Part 2) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2326 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 16) 1987 Mar 5 1987 Sep 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1670 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 5) 1986 Mar 3 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/168 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 11) 1980 Oct 22 1980 Nov 7 2010 Dec 30 Secret 137
PREM19/1329 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 8) 1983 May 4 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 301
PREM19/991 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 21) 1983 Jan 21 1983 Feb 7 2013 Aug 1 Secret 350
PREM19/656 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (Franks): documentation seen by PM, extracted from PREM19 files and copied to the Committee) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1981 Dec 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 131

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