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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2614 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative) (Part 5) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Jan 16 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3650 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative; Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS))​​​​​​​ (Part 6) 1989 Jun 14 1992 Sep 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3651 Defence (Prime Minister's meeting with Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, October 1986: memorandum on 'The Defence of Europe in the Nuclear Age'​​​​​​​) 1986 Sep 26 1987 Jan 20 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3652 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems) (Part 9) 1990 Aug 2 1992 Feb 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2935 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems) (Part 8) 1990 Jan 18 1990 Jul 30 2016 Dec 30 10 Secret UK Eyes A 182
PREM19/2070 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA)) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 6 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21 Secret UK Eyes A 409
PREM19/2612 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: major Ministry of Defence (MOD) procurement projects; new tank for the Army) (Part 7) 1988 Nov 11 1989 Dec 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1844 Defence (Project Moonflower) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Dec 9 2016 Dec 30 Top Secret 14
PREM19/1690 Defence (Public opinion and public debate on nuclear weapons issues) 1982 Oct 18 1986 May 12 2014 Dec 30 2 Secret 241
PREM19/2578 Defence (Rundown of Royal Dockyards at Chatham and Portsmouth: Chatham Historic Dockyard) 1982 Apr 19 1986 Jul 11 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 21
PREM19/2938 Defence (Service exercises to test the transition to war and home defence procedures: Ministerial participation in NATO exercises) 1979 Jul 25 1990 Nov 26 2016 Dec 30 Secret UK Eyes A 94
PREM19/3649 Defence (The Mildenhall Agreement) (Part 1) 1977 Mar 11 1992 Apr 16 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3648 Defence (UK strategic nuclear deterrent: nuclear test programme)​​​​​​​ (Part 10) 1990 Nov 6 1992 May 12 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2934 Defence (War widows' pensions) 1979 Nov 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30 Secret 97
PREM19/3260 Defence ​​​​​​​(Anglo-French nuclear collaboration)(Part 1) 1979 May 31 1991 Apr 13 Temporarily Retained by Department

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