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
PREM19/33 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1979 Jul 25 2009-12-30 Secret 208
PREM19/1383 Security (Access to classified documents by members of Conservative Research Department; case of Tony Hutt, adviser to Secretary of State for the Environment) 1983 Dec 22 1984 Jan 12 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1047 Government machinery (Appointment and role of Chief Scientist, Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS); role and function of CPRS) 1981 Apr 9 1983 Jan 13 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 57
PREM19/710 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 14) 1982 Feb 22 1982 Mar 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 327
PREM19/375 Sport (UK participation in Moscow Olympic Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 6 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 201
PREM19/3871 Pakistan Internal situation: UK/Pakistan relations (Part 2) 1987 Aug 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2287 Japan (Visit to UK by Yasuhiro Nakasone, Prime Minister of Japan, June 1984) (Part 1) 1984 Feb 16 1987 Oct 23 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 63
PREM19/2997 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 5) 1989 Sep 1 1990 Sep 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2223 Home Affairs (Parole position of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady) 1985 Feb 19 1987 Mar 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1644 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 7) 1985 Oct 1 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 350
PREM19/1303 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 18) 1983 Nov 4 1984 Jan 13 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/966 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 19 1983 Sep 19 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 373
PREM19/631 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 20) 1982 May 25 1982 May 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 286
PREM19/290 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Sep 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 205
PREM19/3245 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 1993 and the UK's bid to host it) 1989 Apr 3 1991 Jul 24 2017 Jul 20

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