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
PREM19/371 South Africa (Internal situation) Part 1 1979 Jun 18 1980 Aug 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/1056 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 7) 1983 Jul 1 1983 Aug 31 2013 Aug 1 Secret 403
PREM19/3614 Barbados (Internal situation: UK/Barbados relations) 1981 Jun 24 1992 Mar 2 2017 Dec 29 Secret 254
PREM19/1619 Science and Technology (Annual Review of Government-funded Research and Development: maintaining the strength of the science base) (Part 2) 1984 Aug 2 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 359
PREM19/3256 Defence (Review of home defence: civil and military home defence) (Part 3) [listed out of sequence] 1985 Mar 14 1991 Mar 28 2017 Jul 20 Secret 134
PREM19/2090 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Venice, June 1987) (Part 23) 1987 Jun 1 1988 Feb 17 2016 Dec 30 2 Secret 401
PREM19/807 Industrial policy (UK newsprint production: closure of Bowater's mill at Ellesmere Port) 1980 Jul 28 1982 Dec 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 254
PREM19/1150 USA (Visits by Senator Jesse Helms and John Carbaugh; discussion of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe sanctions and US political matters) 1979 Jun 7 1983 Jul 23 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 97
PREM19/1715 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 21) 1985 Apr 30 1986 May 6 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 197
PREM19/2389 Police (Police policy) (Part 2) 1986 Apr 8 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 2 Secret 263
PREM19/3068 Local Government (Relations between central and local government: local authority expenditure) (Part 37) 1989 Jun 9 1990 Feb 26 2017 Jul 20 Secret 346
PREM19/2086 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 18) 1988 Jan 9 1988 Jun 24 2016 Jul 21 Secret 397
PREM19/558 Parliament (Queen's speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament; televising the State Opening of Parliament) (Part 3) 1980 Nov 18 1981 Oct 22 2011 Dec 30 17 Secret 191
PREM19/1242 France (Prime Minister's visits to France; meetings with President Mitterrand; Anglo-French Summits) (Part 3) 1982 Sep 21 1984 Apr 18 2014 Jan 3 Secret 370
PREM19/3325 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 9) 1990 Nov 8 1991 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20 Secret 424

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