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
PREM19/1070 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach; Anglo-Irish Summit; Anglo-Irish joint studies) (Part 6) 1981 Nov 9 1983 Oct 31 2013 Aug 1 Secret 396
PREM19/1412 Aerospace (Future of British Airways (BA): BA privatisation and United States anti-trust suits; Laker Airways liquidation; airports policy) (Part 3) 1984 Nov 2 1985 Apr 3 2014 Dec 30 Secret 289
PREM19/1425 China (Sino-British relations; defence sales) (Part 2) 1984 Mar 19 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 235
PREM19/943 USA (Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 May 5 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 8 Secret 227
PREM19/562 Posts and telecommunications (Post Office: postal and telecommunications monopoly (possible reference to Monopolies and Mergers Commission); Post Office pay, pricing and finances; British Telecommunications Bill) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 7 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 158
PREM19/2454 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to NATO Summit, March 1988: administrative arrangements) 1988 Jan 19 1988 Mar 7 2016 Jul 21 6 Secret 35
PREM19/437 Economic policy (Exchange rate; exchange control policy; inflow controls) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1981 Oct 23 2011 Dec 30 Secret 267
PREM19/3218 Australia (Visit of the Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, to London, June 1989) (Part 2) 1988 Aug 30 1991 May 29 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 196
PREM19/1650 Transport (Channel Fixed Link (Channel Tunnel): economic considerations; discussions with the French) (Part 3) 1985 Apr 1 1985 Dec 24 2014 Dec 30 Secret 309
PREM19/821 Japan (Commercial relations with Japan; proposed Nissan car plant in the UK) (Part 1) 1979 May 17 1981 Nov 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 248
PREM19/1164 Aerospace (Possible merger between British Aerospace and Thorn EMI or General Electric Company (GEC)) 1984 May 2 1984 Jul 11 2014 Jan 3 Secret 42
PREM19/1038 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 2 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 315
PREM19/309 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 4) 1980 Jan 22 1980 Feb 15 2010 Dec 30 Secret 207
PREM19/656 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (Franks): documentation seen by PM, extracted from PREM19 files and copied to the Committee) (Part 1) 1979 Sep 20 1981 Dec 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 131
PREM19/530 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 5) 1980 Sep 1 1981 Apr 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 370

Pages