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 ascending File classification Pages
PREM19/689 Defence (Review of home defence) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 6 1982 Mar 3 2012 Dec 28 Secret 99
PREM19/348 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: submission folder; proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 1-10) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Sep 14 2010 Dec 30 Secret 419
PREM19/4737 Home Affairs (Juvenile offenders) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 2 1994 Jan 31 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3936 Security (Intelligence Agencies (MI5 and MI6): meetings, visits, appointments)(Part 2) 1989 Feb 14 1992 Dec 21 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2251 Industrial Policy (Investment in management development: government departments joining the Management Charter Initiative) 1987 Apr 6 1988 Dec 2 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 65
PREM19/2971 Environmental Affairs (World Commission on Environment and Development: Bergen Conference 'Action for a Common Future', May 1990) 1988 Jul 5 1990 Feb 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1623 Security (Security of Buckingham Palace grounds: incident on 9 July 1982; review of law of trespass) 1981 Aug 20 1985 May 9 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/945 Vatican (Vatican delegation to Heads of State about nuclear weapons; meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Jan 29 2013 Jul 25 Confidential 59
PREM19/610 Aerospace (British Midland Airways: services to Glasgow and Edinburgh) 1982 Mar 1 1982 Jul 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 20
PREM19/269 Industrial policy (Micro-electronics industry; support for Inmos Ltd (INMOS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 24 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 137
PREM19/4068 Djibouti (UK/Djibouti relations) 1986 Aug 6 1993 Sep 19 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2804 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Professor Abdus Salam, May 1989) 1989 Apr 21 1989 May 8 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 28
PREM19/2154 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, December 1986) (Part 23A) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Jan 19 2016 Nov 7 Confidential 439
PREM19/2790 New Zealand (Visits to the UK of New Zealand Leaders of the Opposition: David Lange and Jim Bolger) 1984 Jan 9 1989 Aug 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1956 Sierra Leone (Visits to UK by President Stevens, November 1980, and President Momoh, March 1986: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 9 1986 Mar 5 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 139

Pages