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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1690 Defence (Public opinion and public debate on nuclear weapons issues) 1982 Oct 18 1986 May 12 2014 Dec 30 2 Secret 241
PREM19/1025 European policy (European Council meeting, Athens, December 1983) (Part 13) 1982 Oct 15 1983 Dec 8 2013 Aug 1 2 Secret 181
PREM19/864 Parliament (Legislative programme 1981-1982 and 1982-1983) (Part 8) 1981 Jul 30 1982 Feb 25 2012 Dec 28 2 Confidential 178
PREM19/2370 Nigeria (Visit to UK by President Shagari, March 1981; proposed visit by President Babangida in 1989) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 16 1988 Dec 8 2016 Nov 7 2 Confidential 120
PREM19/2351 National Health (Spread of meningococcal meningitis) 1986 Mar 26 1987 Apr 3 2016 Jul 21 1 Unclassified 22
PREM19/629 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 18) 1982 May 18 1982 May 21 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 276
PREM19/1283 Iraq (Internal situation; Iran-Iraq War; threat to Gulf oil supplies) (Part 3) 1982 Jun 28 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 1 Top Secret 361
PREM19/1972 South Korea (Prime Minister's visit to South Korea, May 1986) 1982 Mar 29 1986 May 16 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1058 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 9) 1983 Oct 1 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 1 Top Secret 322
PREM19/2034 Canada (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1988 Mar 28 2016 Dec 30 1 Secret 294
PREM19/817 Ireland (Northern Ireland Security Co-ordinator: appointments of Sir Maurice Oldfield and Sir Brooks Richards; post then left in abeyance) 1979 Sep 18 1982 Apr 8 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret - Cabinet 2 146
PREM19/2313 Malaysia (UK/Malaysia relations: visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, July 1987) (Part 2) 1985 Aug 2 1987 Jul 24 2016 Jul 21 1 Confidential 125
PREM19/2428 Prime Minister (Policy Unit briefing for Prime Minister: general topics) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Mar 4 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 252
PREM19/614 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 3) 1982 Apr 1 1982 Apr 5 2012 Dec 28 1 Top Secret 236
PREM19/2087 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 19) 1988 Jul 1 1988 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21 1

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