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? File classificationsort ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1771 Government Machinery (Review of administrative forms) (Part 1) 1980 Aug 14 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2616 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 5) 1984 Jul 5 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1936 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's meeting with industrialists and leading academics, February 1985; the Engineering and Technology Programme) 1985 Oct 28 1986 Mar 7 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3587 USA ​​​​​​​(Calls on the Prime Minister by David Rockefeller)​​​​​​​ 1979 Jun 11 1991 Nov 18 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2814 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Frankfurt for the Anglo-German Summit, February 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Dec 19 1989 Mar 13 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3828 Israel (Internal situation: UK/Israel relations) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 4 1992 Jul 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1300 Libya (UK/Libyan relations; threat to Libyan dissidents in UK; shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 2A) 1984 Apr 17 1984 May 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3222 Belize ​​​​​​​(Dispute with Guatemala)(Part 3) 1983 Mar 1 1991 Sep 2 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3023 Home Affairs (Financial provision after divorce) 1982 Jan 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2310 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 11) 1988 Aug 3 1988 Dec 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1882 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising proceedings of the House of Commons) (Part 6) 1984 Nov 2 1986 Mar 11 2016 Jul 21 4
PREM19/2769 Luxembourg (Prime Minister's visits to Luxembourg, October 1979 and April 1989: policy) 1979 Sep 20 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3432 Luxembourg ​​​​​​​(Visits of Prime Ministers of Luxembourg, Pierre Werner and Jacques Santer) 1980 Nov 14 1991 Jun 25 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3626 China (Visits to the UK by Vice Premiers of China: meetings with Chinese Foreign Ministers) 1980 May 8 1992 Nov 17 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2931 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 12) 1989 Mar 3 1990 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20

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