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 descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2377 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 15) 1986 May 2 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 198
PREM19/313 Nationalised Industries (Water industry pay; contingency planning) (Part 7) 1979 Jun 4 1980 Nov 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 55
PREM19/1181 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, New Delhi, November 1983: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1982 Jun 18 1983 Nov 15 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 210
PREM19/844 Ministers (Ministerial travel overseas: general policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 191
PREM19/2076 Downing Street (Organisation and function of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit: access to papers by members of the Policy Unit; relations with the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1987 Feb 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2732 Hungary (Visits to the UK by Prime Ministers Karoly Grosz, (May 1988) and Miklos Nemeth (December 1989)) 1987 Jul 28 1989 Dec 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1846 Defence (Policing of demonstrations at military bases: activities of anti-nuclear demonstrators) (Part 1) 1983 Feb 17 1986 Mar 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1504 Foreign Policy (Strategy on foreign policy and defence issues: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) resources) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 9 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 281
PREM19/3269 Economic Policy (Briefing for the Prime Minister by Sir Alan Walters) 1989 May 10 1991 Jan 15 2017 Jul 20 Secret 35
PREM19/3878 Parliament (Pay and pensions of the Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Speaker) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 29 1992 Apr 3 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/573 Prime Minister (Meeting with Lawrence Cunliffe MP about possible closure of David Brown Tractors Ltd and unemployment in Leigh) 1981 Oct 28 1981 Nov 18 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 26
PREM19/233 Fishing industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1980 Jan 31 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 260
PREM19/1437 Defence (Proposal by Julian Amery MP to revive the Special Operations Executive (SOE): history of SOE in the Far East, Greece and Scandinavia) 1980 Apr 3 1985 Dec 16 2014 Dec 30 Secret 48
PREM19/1101 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Stanley Thorne MP about job losses at Preston factory of Rockwell Graphic Systems Ltd) 1983 Apr 20 1983 May 13 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 15
PREM19/764 Germany (Chancellor Schmidt's visit to the UK, March 1982: meetings with the Prime Minister) (Parts 4 & 5) 1982 Mar 1 1982 May 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 242

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