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
PREM19/802 India (Visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi, September 1982: call on Prime Minister) 1982 Aug 26 1982 Oct 27 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 23
PREM19/466 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 4) 1980 Sep 4 1981 Sep 15 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256
PREM19/3101 NATO (NATO Policy) 1980 Jun 20 1990 Apr 25 2017 Jul 20 Secret 311
PREM19/3665 Economic Policy (European Investment Bank (EIB): appointments of UK Vice-President and Director of Research; visit by the Chairman, November 1992) 1986 Jun 10 1992 Nov 27 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 21
PREM19/2398 Prime Minister (Submission of papers to the Prime Minister prior to trips abroad and recesses) 1979 Jul 17 1986 Jul 7 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 22
PREM19/1849 Memorials (General Sir Brian Horrocks' memorial service) 1985 Jan 24 1985 Jan 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2531 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union) (Part 1) 1987 Aug 1 1987 Sep 8 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/44 Energy (British National Oil Corporation & BP shares) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 3 1979 Sep 12 2009 Dec 30 Secret 174
PREM19/721 Economic policy (Liaison Committee on presentation of government policies; guidance to Ministers and MPs) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 1 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240
PREM19/386 Aerospace (British Aerospace’s bid for Arab Communications Satellite) 1981 Apr 7 1981 May 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 29
PREM19/4887 Parliament (House of Lords procedure: televising of House of Lords proceedings) (Part 2) 1983 Feb 3 1994 Dec 23 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3253 Defence (Manpower level of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR)) 1980 Jun 27 1991 Aug 23 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 20
PREM19/3852 Ministers (Departmental responsibilities of the Whips) (Part 1) 1986 Oct 29 1992 Apr 15 2017 Dec 29 Unclassified 10
PREM19/2301 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 33) 1987 Aug 4 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 246
PREM19/3015 Government Machinery (The Inland Revenue) 1986 Jun 9 1990 Jul 27 2016 Dec 30

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