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
PREM19/2975 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 45) 1990 Mar 2 1990 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2146 European Policy (Presidency of European Commission (reappointment of Jacques Delors): UK Commissioners (appointment and meetings with Prime Minister); David Williamson to succeed Emile Noel as Secretary-General; UK representation in official posts in Commission) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 2 1988 Jul 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/293 Manpower (Special employment measures; youth unemployment; education, training and industrial performance; industrial training) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 10 1980 Oct 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 107
PREM19/1324 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 4) 1982 Jul 19 1983 Jun 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/986 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 24) 1983 Aug 1 1983 Oct 28 2013 Aug 1 Secret 320
PREM19/3329 Ex-Prime Ministers ​​​​​​​(Policy on requests by former Prime Ministers for access to papers from their administration)(Part 1) 1974 Apr 1 1991 Jan 24 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/651 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 9) 1982 Jun 7 1982 Jun 25 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret UK Eyes B 95
PREM19/2158 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987: briefing papers) (Part 27A) 1987 Dec 1 1987 Dec 5 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 309
PREM19/2800 Police (Police pay) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 1 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1989 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay; industrial action by NUR and ASLEF; possible line closures; British Rail finances) (Part 8) 1984 Jan 20 1986 Jul 31 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1581 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 18) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 375
PREM19/4050 Defence (The D Notice System: Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee (DPBC)) 1980 Mar 14 1993 Jul 13 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/907 Security (German occupation of the Channel Islands: allegations by Solomon Steckoll against Channel Islands officials) 1980 Sep 24 1982 Mar 11 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 27
PREM19/3467 Netherlands ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: UK/Dutch relations)(Part 1) 1980 Sep 16 1991 Nov 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/571 Prime Minister (Meeting with John Carlisle MP to discuss sporting contacts with South Africa) 1981 Sep 7 1981 Sep 17 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 19

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