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
PREM19/2820 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Morocco, Nigeria and Southern Africa, March-April 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Mar 20 1989 Jul 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3583 United Nations ​​​​​​​(United Nations Human Rights Commission: appointment of Sir Anthony Williams as UK delegate) 1983 Nov 1 1991 Jun 2 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2646 Education (Nursery education of children under 5) 1979 Dec 6 1989 Apr 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1799 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations) (Part 3) [possible filing error - originally numbered Part 2, but previous file in the series is Part 2] 1985 Jan 16 1985 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 164
PREM19/1457 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 13) 1985 May 10 1985 Jun 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 394
PREM19/155 Commonwealth (Heads of Government Meeting in Lusaka, August 1979) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 1 1980 Feb 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 131
PREM19/495 Information and publicity (Public attitudes on pay determination; presentation of Government's economic policy) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 11 1981 Nov 17 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 77
PREM19/1121 Royal family (Visits to Northern Ireland by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester) 1981 Jun 12 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 Secret 9
PREM19/3128 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with Nicholas Ridley, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry) 1989 Sep 5 1990 May 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3713 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 20) 1990 Jul 18 1992 Dec 31 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2373 Overseas Aid (Management of Aid and Trade Provision (ATP): Hawker Siddeley diesels for Indonesia) 1984 Feb 6 1987 Feb 18 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 71
PREM19/160 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; UK/US understandings on the use of nuclear weapons and bases) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1980 Mar 25 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2506 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 7) 1987 Apr 3 1987 Jun 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1720 Economic policy (The Budget, 1985 and 1986) (Part 14) 1985 Mar 11 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/74 Industrial policy (Employee stock ownership - correspondence with US Senator) 1979 Jul 31 1979 Sep 3 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 16

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