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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1842 Memoirs (James Callaghan's memoirs) 1986 Dec 9 1986 Dec 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/840 Memorials (Dedication of Defenders' Memorial in Westminster Abbey, March 1982; Dame Ruth King's initiative) 1981 Aug 21 1982 Mar 27 2012 Dec 28 1 Confidential 53
PREM19/1849 Memorials (General Sir Brian Horrocks' memorial service) 1985 Jan 24 1985 Jan 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/841 Memorials (Holocaust Memorial; proposal from Board of Deputies of British Jews) 1980 Apr 24 1982 Feb 16 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 59
PREM19/1848 Memorials (Lord Shinwell's memorial service) 1986 May 21 1986 Jun 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1850 Memorials (WPC Yvonne Fletcher memorial) 1984 May 1 1985 Feb 13 2015 Dec 30 2
PREM19/1314 Memorials (Yalta victims memorial) 1980 Jan 28 1984 Mar 12 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1843 Mexico (Anglo-Mexican relations: internal situation in Mexico) (Part 1) 1981 May 29 1985 Jun 11 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/528 Mexico (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Dr Jorge Castadena, March 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Jan 19 1981 May 21 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 24
PREM19/534 Middle East (Arab ambassadors' dinner, July 1981: invitation declined by PM as PLO representative would be present) 1981 Feb 23 1981 Jul 10 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 30
PREM19/842 Middle East (Arms sales & military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 2) 1981 Apr 2 1982 Sep 15 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret - UK Eyes A 275
PREM19/529 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 6 1981 Mar 31 2011 Dec 30 2 Secret 209
PREM19/1315 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 13 1984 Oct 22 2014 Sep 29 Secret 375
PREM19/535 Middle East (Prime Minister's visits to Kuwait and Bahrain, September 1981: meetings with Rulers and Ministers) 1981 Apr 15 1981 Nov 9 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 151
PREM19/92 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1979 Sep 20 2009 Dec 30 1 Secret 223

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