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 Titlesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/1536 (UK/Indian relations: situation in Punjab; activities of Sikh extremists; proposed visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 4 1985 May 22 2014 Dec 30 7 Secret 404
PREM19/3214 Aerospace (Aerospace policy: future and structure of British Airways; merger of British Airways and British Caledonian; airports in the South East; British Aerospace (BAe)) (Part 6) 1987 Jan 6 1991 Feb 18 2017 Jul 20 Secret 285
PREM19/2582 Aerospace (Air Combat Manoeuvring Installation in the North Sea) 1989 Apr 23 1989 Jun 6 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1664 Aerospace (British Aerospace (BAe): shares for employees) 1980 May 3 1986 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3602 Aerospace (European Airbus: European Transonic Windtunnel (ETW)) (Part 3) 1987 Dec 3 1992 Sep 3 2017 Dec 29 3 Secret 332
PREM19/1666 Aerospace (Future and structure of British Airways: engines for British Airways Boeing 747-400s; UK/US air services; UK/Canada air services) (Part 5) 1986 Jan 1 1986 Dec 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1665 Aerospace (Future and structure of British Airways: settlement of litigation concerning the collapse of Laker Airways; airports policy; USA/UK future aviation strategy; economic regulation of airports; competition regime for UK/US aviation) (Part 4) 1985 May 3 1986 Jan 24 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 387
PREM19/3604 Aerospace (Space policy) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 3 1992 Nov 9 2017 Dec 29 1 Secret UK Eyes A 212
PREM19/4560 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 8) 1990 Jan 22 1994 Feb 4 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/4561 Afghanistan (UK/Afghanistan relations: internal situation) (Part 8) 1988 Apr 6 1994 Jun 15 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2584 Agricultural (Agricultural Wages Board) 1983 Mar 28 1989 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3606 Agriculture (Agricultural and food research)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1990 Jun 4 1992 Jan 20 2017 Dec 29 Unclassified 46
PREM19/3216 Agriculture (Agriculture expenditure: report on the review of agricultural training) (Part 3) 1987 Nov 20 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20 1 Secret 318
PREM19/3605 Agriculture (Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowances (HLCAs)​​​​​​​) 1979 Nov 20 1992 Dec 10 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 51
PREM19/3217 Agriculture (Prime Minister's lunch with innovative farmers, 3 May 1991) 1989 Nov 27 1991 May 2 2017 Jul 20 4 Confidential 75

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