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
PREM19/2536 Soviet Union (Soviet visa applications) 1979 Jun 13 1987 Jan 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/103 Prime Minister (Meeting with British Council of Churches Oct 1979) 1979 May 9 1979 Oct 17 2009 Dec 30 Unclassified 41
PREM19/1453 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 32) 1985 May 10 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/1741 Environemntal Affairs (Report on leak at Windscale: policy towards Sellafield; environmental pollution; report on incidence of cancer in west Cumbria; report of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 28 1986 Jul 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/445 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Ottawa) (Part 6) [Part 5 of this file has been destroyed] 1981 Feb 2 1981 Jul 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/3836 Japan Visit to the UK by Japanese Prime Ministers, Toshiki Kaifu and Kiichi Miyazawa (Part 3) 1990 Mar 1 1992 Jul 21 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2304 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 5) 1986 Sep 2 1987 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3023 Home Affairs (Financial provision after divorce) 1982 Jan 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2276 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 22) 1986 Nov 1 1987 Oct 31 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/23 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 6) 1979 Oct 24 1979 Nov 19 2009 Dec 30 Secret 292
PREM19/1373 Security (Recommendation by Security Commission in report on Geoffrey Prime case for pilot polygraph scheme in Security Service and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)) 1984 Feb 10 1984 Aug 8 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1659 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, February 1985) (Part 4B) 1985 Feb 13 1985 Mar 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1037 Germany (Chancellor Helmut Kohl's visits to the UK: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 7) 1982 Nov 29 1983 May 16 2013 Aug 1 Secret 357
PREM19/700 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 4 1982 Jan 28 2012 Dec 28 Secret 108
PREM19/362 Security (Leak in Guardian and Time Out of Ministerial discussion on civil nuclear power programme) 1979 Dec 6 1980 Mar 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 23

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