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? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/2868 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by President Mikhail Gorbachev, April 1989) (Part 3) 1989 Jan 3 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30 8 Secret 492
PREM19/3415 Jordan (Visits by Crown Prince Hassan) 1983 Jul 1 1991 Mar 1 2017 Jul 20 2 Secret 56
PREM19/27 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Jun 29 2009 Dec 30 2 Secret 288
PREM19/716 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 18) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Mar 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 474
PREM19/2428 Prime Minister (Policy Unit briefing for Prime Minister: general topics) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Mar 4 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 252
PREM19/1059 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 10) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 412
PREM19/932 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay dispute; investigation into 'flexible rostering' by Railway Staff National Tribunal under Lord McCarthy; railway finances review by Sir David Serpell) (Part 3) 1982 Feb 10 1982 May 7 2012 Dec 28 Secret 340
PREM19/2983 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 7) 1990 May 1 1990 Jun 27 2018 Jun 5 Secret 382
PREM19/3867 Norway (Visits to the UK by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norwegian Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 10 1992 Nov 25 2017 Dec 29 Secret 173
PREM19/3252 Defence (The Defence Budget: Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1988-1991) (Part 13) 1987 Jul 10 1991 Feb 10 2017 Dec 29 Secret 285
PREM19/2093 Economic Policy (Exchange rate: exchange control policy) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 6 1986 Dec 11 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 230
PREM19/2650 Education (Student loans: White Paper on Student Support) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 6 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 298
PREM19/1153 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, September 1983) (Part 3) 1983 Aug 31 1983 Oct 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 198
PREM19/1027 European policy (European Council meeting, Brussels, March 1983) (Part 15) 1983 Feb 7 1983 Mar 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 228
PREM19/1369 Science and technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base; the science budget; review of high energy particle physics (HEPP); annual review of government funded research and development 1984) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 15 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 396

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