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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2879 Trade (Commodity policy: International Tin Council litigation; International Coffee Agreement) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 5 1989 Nov 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2061 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 10) 1988 Feb 3 1988 Jul 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1569 Manpower (Employment policy: special employment programmes; White Paper on education and training for young people; Youth Training Scheme (YTS); long term unemployment) (Part 12) 1985 Mar 1 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 291
PREM19/1233 European policy (Public attitudes to Europe) 1980 Jun 18 1984 Jun 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/560 Poland (Internal situation; economic assistance to Poland) (Part 3) 1981 Mar 2 1981 Aug 12 2011 Dec 30 Secret 293
PREM19/57 France (MT visits to, Paris June 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Aug 28 2009 Dec 30 Secret 172
PREM19/2682 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 6) 1988 Dec 2 1989 Nov 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3536 Security ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's comments on codeword documents)​​​​​​​ 1979 Jun 21 1991 Feb 10 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2560 United Nations (Call on Prime Minister by Sir Anthony Parsons, UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, August 1979: valedictory despatch by Sir John Thomson, UK Permanent Representative, April 1987) 1979 Jul 6 1987 Apr 15 2016 Nov 7 Confidential 25
PREM19/2039 Civil Service (Dispersal) (Part 3) 1982 Sep 9 1988 Mar 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2703 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 7 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1831 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; United States response to Libyan terrorism) (Part 5) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1488 European Policy (European Democratic Group (EDG) in European Parliament; links with other groups/Parties) 1984 Jan 30 1985 Jun 6 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 35
PREM19/1153 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, September 1983) (Part 3) 1983 Aug 31 1983 Oct 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 198
PREM19/3055 Israel (Visits to UK by Menachem Begin, Israeli Prime Minister, and his successors Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres) (Part 1) 1979 May 6 1990 Jun 12 2017 Jul 20

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