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
PREM19/1388 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 2) 1984 Feb 6 1984 Feb 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1052 Home affairs (Prison workshops and the Priority Suppliers Scheme) 1983 Mar 10 1983 May 3 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 28
PREM19/715 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 19) 1982 Nov 1 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 318
PREM19/380 Tunisia (Call on Prime Minister by Habib Bourguiba, son of Tunisian President, March 1980) 1980 Feb 29 1980 Mar 21 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 18
PREM19/4463 Togo (UK/Togo relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1983 Jan 7 1993 Jun 15 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3865 NATO (Visits to the UK by the Secretary General of NATO) 1979 Sep 27 1992 Jun 3 2017 Dec 29 Secret Cab One 160
PREM19/2295 Legal Procedure (Legal powers: challenges to the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) and other departments; Judicial Review) (Part 1) 1985 Dec 4 1987 Oct 19 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Management in Confidence 145
PREM19/3007 Germany (Visits by Chancellor Helmut Kohl to the UK) (Part 10) 1986 Nov 20 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2265 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 5) 1984 Sep 1 1987 Jul 19 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1649 Transport (Channel Fixed Link (Channel Tunnel): economic considerations; discussions with the French) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 16 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 280
PREM19/1308 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 23) 1984 Oct 2 1984 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 287
PREM19/971 Cyprus (Internal situation; UK/Cypriot relations) (Part 1) 1980 Feb 29 1983 Nov 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 355
PREM19/636 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 25) 1982 Jun 17 1982 Jun 18 2012 Dec 28 Secret 130
PREM19/295 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 2) 1979 Sep 21 1980 May 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 250
PREM19/4215 Home Affairs (Open Government) (Part 2) 1988 Jun 1 1993 Jan 29 2018 Jul 24

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