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?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/4281 Legal Procedures (Bail Act 1976) (Part 1) 1987 Mar 20 1993 Apr 27 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/646 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 4) 1982 Apr 30 1982 May 4 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 36
PREM19/305 Nationalised Industries (Privatisation) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1980 Feb 18 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 97
PREM19/3383 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Registration of children's homes) 1979 Jun 7 1991 Jun 4 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3077 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 24) 1990 Aug 20 1990 Aug 23 2017 Jul 20 Top Secret 370
PREM19/2200 Government Machinery (Future of Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) and nuclear Royal Ordnance Factories; privatisation of Royal Ordnance Factories) 1980 Sep 22 1988 Jul 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2889 United Nations (International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference, Nice, 1989) 1989 May 1 1989 Jun 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2067 Defence (Military communications satellite) 1981 Oct 1 1988 Sep 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1575 National Health (Financial support to Medical Research Council (MRC)) 1984 Jul 25 1985 May 8 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 94
PREM19/1238 Foreign policy (United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNLOSC)) (Part 2) 1983 Jan 12 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 257
PREM19/565 Prime Minister (Meeting with Jim Spicer MP on strategic importance of the Cape route; United Nations arms embargo against South Africa) 1981 Feb 2 1981 Mar 16 2011 Dec 30 Top Secret - Codeword 28
PREM19/2611 Defence (Arms control talks and the effect on nuclear weapons) (Part 15) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Jun 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3528 Security ​​​​​​​(Irish terrorist activity in Great Britain: other terrorist activity in Great Britain)​​​​​​​ (Part 7) 1990 Nov 1 1991 Oct 17 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2574 Zambia (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Kebby Musokatwane, September 1987) 1980 May 30 1987 Sep 7 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 23
PREM19/2716 Home Affairs (Sentencing policy: Criminal Justice Bill; draft Green Paper 'Punishment, Custody and the Community') (Part 3) 1987 Mar 5 1989 Oct 6 2016 Dec 30

Pages