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? File classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/4050 Defence (The D Notice System: Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee (DPBC)) 1980 Mar 14 1993 Jul 13 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3467 Netherlands ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: UK/Dutch relations)(Part 1) 1980 Sep 16 1991 Nov 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2722 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism; Football Spectators Bill) (Part 7) 1988 Jul 5 1989 Jan 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1842 Memoirs (James Callaghan's memoirs) 1986 Dec 9 1986 Dec 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1376 Security (Proposed book by Vernon Newton on Donald Maclean's espionage activities) 1984 May 14 1984 May 21 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2834 St Christopher and Nevis (Relations with UK; independence; internal situation) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 4 1989 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3588 USA ​​​​​​​(Visit of William Casey, Director of Central Intelligence in Washington, and his successors)​​​​​​​ 1981 Feb 12 1991 Nov 25 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1966 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 9) 1986 Mar 3 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/2575 Zambia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1987 Aug 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1763 Germany (Internal situation) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 1 1986 May 30
PREM19/1297 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 6) 1983 Dec 30 1984 Feb 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3136 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Aspen, Colorado, USA, August 1990: administrative arrangements) 1989 Dec 20 1990 Oct 2 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3747 European Policy (Prime Minister's meeting with European Community Committee of Cancer Experts, 25 May 1989​​​​​​​) 1989 Feb 1 1992 Oct 20 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3206 USA (Prime Minister's meeting with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, 5 February 1990) 1990 Jan 25 1990 Mar 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2394 Prime Minister (Mark Thatcher and the Omanis: other allegations against Mark Thatcher) 1984 Jan 1 1988 Nov 9 Retained Closed for 40 years

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