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
PREM19/233 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1980 Jan 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 260
PREM19/234 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 3 1980 May 7 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 134
PREM19/235 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 3) 1980 May 9 1980 Aug 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 178
PREM19/466 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 4) 1980 Sep 4 1981 Sep 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256
PREM19/56 Fishing Industry (Mourne herring fishery) 1979 Aug 22 1979 Aug 30 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 19
PREM19/2677 Food (Food safety) (Part 1) 1989 Jan 30 1989 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2678 Food (Food safety) (Part 2) 1989 Apr 3 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2680 Foreign Policy (Allegations concerning war criminals: Simon Weisenthal Center; War Crimes Inquiry) (Part 1) 1986 Oct 22 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2681 Foreign Policy (Allegations concerning war criminals: War Crimes Inquiry) (Part 2) 1989 Jun 30 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2688 Foreign Policy (Consular Fees (Amendment) Bill: increases in consular fees) 1979 Jul 10 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2992 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 10) 1989 Dec 1 1990 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2993 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 11) 1989 Feb 1 1990 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1759 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 6) 1985 Dec 1 1986 Oct 30 2015 Dec 30 4 Secret 329
PREM19/759 Foreign policy (East/West relations; United States foreign policy) (Part 2) 1980 Jun 2 1982 Sep 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 227
PREM19/1033 Foreign policy (East/West relations; United States foreign policy) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 1 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Top Secret 416

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