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 release Any docs withheld?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/708 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 12) 1981 Dec 17 1982 Jan 4 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 140
PREM19/373 Spain (EEC fishing licences for Spanish fishermen) 1980 Jan 28 1980 Feb 8 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 18
PREM19/96 Nationalized industries (Shipbuilding) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 121
PREM19/2990 Finland (Prime Minister's visit to Helsinki to attend European Democratic Union (EDU) conference, August 1990) 1990 Aug 13 1990 Sep 10 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3628 Civil Service (Civil Service manpower: early retirement) (Part 5) 1990 Aug 1 1992 Nov 10 2017 Dec 29 Secret 95
PREM19/1775 Government Machinery (Ministerial responsibility for coordinating the presentation of government policies) 1983 Nov 28 1986 Jul 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1432 Cyprus (Internal situation: UK/Cyprus relations) (Part 2) 1983 Dec 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 446
PREM19/1096 Overseas Aid (Development policy; aid framework for 1981-1982 to 1983-1984; UK contribution to International Development Association) (Part 3) 1982 Apr 2 1983 Dec 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 304
PREM19/1905 Prime Minister (Meetings with David Clark MP and Don Dixon MP about closure of Plessey factory in South Shields) 1984 Mar 26 1986 Jun 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2575 Zambia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1987 Aug 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/964 Civil service (Manpower reductions in the Cabinet Office) 1979 Jul 20 1983 May 9 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 59
PREM19/16 Defence (Anglo-German offset agreement) 1979 Jul 5 1979 Nov 27 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 8
PREM19/1695 Defence (Arms control) (Part 9) 1986 Jul 1 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret UK Eyes Only 427
PREM19/1352 Prime Minister (Allegations by Paddy Ashdown MP about Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations against British companies in the computer technology field allegedly embargo-breaking) 1984 May 9 1984 Dec 14 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3873 Parliament (Cost of Parliamentary questions) 1982 Jul 15 1992 Jan 15 2017 Dec 29 Unclassified 23

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