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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2028 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; Peacock Report on Financing the BBC; BBC proposal for a world television news service) (Part 3) 1986 Jul 1 1987 Feb 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2697 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Turkish Prime Minister in Germany) (Part 7) 1987 Jul 1 1989 Feb 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/909 Soviet Union (Soviet General Staff Command exercise) 1982 Jun 24 1982 Jul 15 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 6
PREM19/590 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 3) 1980 Apr 18 1981 Oct 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/250 Government Machinery (Future of Civil Service Department; integration with the Treasury; Select Committee consideration) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 7 1980 Nov 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 549
PREM19/1844 Defence (Project Moonflower) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Dec 9 2016 Dec 30 Top Secret 14
PREM19/1502 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong and USA, December 1984: policy) 1984 Sep 12 1985 Mar 25 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 250
PREM19/3069 Manpower (Special employment measures: future of the Employment Service; training policy) (Part 22) 1989 Aug 1 1990 Jan 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1166 Angola (Internal situation; appointment of Jose Eduardo dos Santos as President; UK/Angolan relations) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 12 1984 Mar 22 2014 Jan 3 Secret 291
PREM19/3651 Defence (Prime Minister's meeting with Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, October 1986: memorandum on 'The Defence of Europe in the Nuclear Age'​​​​​​​) 1986 Sep 26 1987 Jan 20 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/829 Local government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Green Paper on alternatives to domestic rates) (Part 1) 1979 May 25 1982 Jun 28 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 280
PREM19/2407 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Gerry Steinberg MP, 23 February 1988) 1987 Dec 14 1988 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 27
PREM19/1864 National Health (Doctors' and dentists' pay; reports of Review Body) (Part 3) 1981 May 15 1986 May 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/510 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 1) 1981 Jan 20 1981 Nov 11 2011 Dec 30 Secret - UK eyes A 211
PREM19/170 Economic policy (Privatization) (Part 3) 1980 Feb 11 1980 Oct 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 182

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