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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/843 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 9) 1981 Dec 11 1982 Apr 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 344
PREM19/1570 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 12) 1984 Jan 5 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1571 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 13) 1985 Jun 2 1985 Sep 3 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1851 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 14) 1985 Oct 1 1986 May 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2328 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 18) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2324 Middle East (Weapons development) 1987 Aug 6 1987 Aug 26 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/845 Ministers (Lord President's participation in BBC Radio 4 programme on the Privy Council) 1982 Jun 15 1982 Jun 22 2012 Dec 28 Unclassified 6
PREM19/1852 Ministers (Market and Opinion Research International Ltd (MORI): requests for Geoffrey Finsberg MP and Lord Young to participate in surveys on a range of issues affecting British industry) 1980 Jun 2 1986 Jul 16 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/844 Ministers (Ministerial travel overseas: general policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 191
PREM19/93 Ministers (Ministers assess position they inherited on taking office) 1979 May 9 1979 May 11 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 52
PREM19/1316 Ministers (Ministers’ outside interests; position of Ministers on appointment to office; membership at Lloyds; Questions of Procedure for Ministers) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1984 Sep 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3089 Ministers (Prime Minister's meetings with Junior Ministers) 1979 Jun 6 1990 Sep 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/846 Ministers (Request for release of 1957 report on the burden on Ministers) 1982 Jul 19 1982 Aug 11 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 18
PREM19/536 Ministers (Rules governing travel by Ministers and their families: charging for Royal Air Force aircraft) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1981 Nov 16 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 196
PREM19/2331 Morocco (UK/Moroccan relations: visit to UK by King Hassan) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 27 1987 Nov 27 Closed or retained

Pages