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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of releasesort ascending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/1370 Science and technology (Prime Minister’s seminar on science, technology, and industry, September 1983) (Part 1) 1982 Dec 22 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 364
PREM19/1245b Germany (Visits to UK by Chancellor Helmut Kohl; Anglo-German Summit) (Part 8B) 1983 Oct 11 1984 Aug 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 261
PREM19/1246 Germany (Visit to UK by former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, October 1983; meeting with Prime Minister) 1982 Nov 11 1984 Jan 5 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 27
PREM19/1339 Parliament (House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology: scientific advice to government; engineering research and development) 1979 Nov 12 1984 Oct 16 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 210
PREM19/1216 Environmental affairs (Environmental policy: reports of Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution; industrial pollution and acid rain; possible British initiative) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 4 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 267
PREM19/1310 Mauritius (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam and Anerood Jugnauth: meetings with Prime Minister) 1980 Jan 18 1984 Sep 7 2014 Jan 3 Secret 348
PREM19/1184 Defence (Arms control) (Part 5) 1983 Dec 8 1984 Dec 14 2014 Jan 3 Secret 274
PREM19/1403 USA (Visit to UK by Donald Rumsfeld, President Reagan’s special Middle East envoy: meeting with Prime Minister) 1984 Jan 16 1984 Jan 20 2014 Jan 3 1 Confidential 29
PREM19/1278 Industrial policy (Wages Councils; review of Fair Wages Resolution 1946) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 26 1982 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 167
PREM19/898 Royal family (Prime Minister's Audiences with the Queen) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1982 Feb 9 2013 Dec 6 147 Unclassified 105
PREM19/1124 Royal family (Royal visits to Kenya, India, and Bangladesh) 1983 Feb 23 1983 Jul 8 2013 Nov 20 Confidential 14
PREM19/691 Defence (Replacement of Royal Air Force (RAF) communications aircraft; aircraft for Queen's Flight) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 16 1982 Nov 24 2013 Nov 20 10 Secret 254
PREM19/916 Security (Resignation of Commander Michael Trestrail, Queen's Police Officer; homosexual relationship with male prostitute; investigation by Lord Bridge of Harwich into security aspects) 1982 Jul 19 1982 Nov 25 2013 Nov 20 Secret 82
PREM19/875 Posts and telecommunications (Future of Post Office: liberalisation of telecommunications monopoly; British Telecom's investment programme; BT and postal tariff increases) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 4 1982 Mar 16 2013 Sep 24 Top Secret 282
PREM19/14 Defence (UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent) (Part 1) 1979 May 21 1979 Dec 15 2013 Sep 24 Top Secret 177

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