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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/803 Industrial policy (Future of British Leyland (BL)) (Part 6) 1981 Nov 1 1982 Jul 29 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 326
PREM19/2144 European Policy (Prime Minister's opening of EUREKA Ministerial Conference, London, June 1986: European capability in new technology) 1986 Jan 7 1986 Jun 16 2016 Nov 7 2 Confidential 44
PREM19/1966 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 9) 1986 Mar 3 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/770 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 11 1982 Oct 28 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 189
PREM19/2019 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza to discuss possible siting in UK of the Thyssen Collection) (Part 2) 1988 Jun 2 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/1394 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; visit to UK by Mikhail Gorbachev, member of Politburo, December 1984; meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 4 1984 Dec 22 2014 Jan 3 2 Top Secret 411
PREM19/2370 Nigeria (Visit to UK by President Shagari, March 1981; proposed visit by President Babangida in 1989) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 16 1988 Dec 8 2016 Nov 7 2 Confidential 120
PREM19/1850 Memorials (WPC Yvonne Fletcher memorial) 1984 May 1 1985 Feb 13 2015 Dec 30 2
PREM19/1186 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 4) 1984 Mar 2 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 2 Confidential 454
PREM19/2589 Australia (Visits to the UK by Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, State Premier of Queensland, and his successor Mike Ahern) 1979 Jul 9 1989 Mar 1 2016 Dec 30 2 Confidential 57
PREM19/2371 Norway (State Visit of King Olaf V of Norway, April 1988) 1987 Nov 13 1988 Apr 13 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 45
PREM19/2518 Singapore (Relations with UK: visits by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew; meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1988 Mar 8 2016 Dec 30 2 Confidential 280
PREM19/1690 Defence (Public opinion and public debate on nuclear weapons issues) 1982 Oct 18 1986 May 12 2014 Dec 30 2 Secret 241
PREM19/741 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 17) 1982 Jul 1 1982 Jul 22 2012 Dec 28 2 Confidential 156
PREM19/3213 Prime Minister (Resignation of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister) 1990 Nov 20 1991 Nov 11 2016 Dec 30 2 Secret 215

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