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? File classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1667 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 2) 1985 Dec 28 1986 Jan 10 2016 Feb 19 Secret 413
PREM19/163 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Secret 248
PREM19/509 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Garret Fitzgerald); Anglo-Irish Summit, November 1981) (Part 5) 1981 Oct 22 1981 Nov 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/851 Nationalised industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control; objectives; Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) study of the state monopolies) (Part 7) 1982 Jul 1 1982 Dec 31 2012 Dec 28 Secret 242
PREM19/1194 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 30) 1984 Nov 6 1984 Dec 14 2014 Jan 3 Secret 376
PREM19/1536 (UK/Indian relations: situation in Punjab; activities of Sikh extremists; proposed visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 4 1985 May 22 2014 Dec 30 7 Secret 404
PREM19/1759 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 6) 1985 Dec 1 1986 Oct 30 2015 Dec 30 4 Secret 329
PREM19/1071 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 26 1983 Aug 23 2013 Aug 1 Secret 183
PREM19/1413 Aerospace (Space policy: formation of British National Space Centre (BNSC)) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 20 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/256 Housing (Housing policy; the Housing Bill; council house sales) (Part 1) 1979 May 22 1980 Jul 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 117
PREM19/944 USA (Relations between the UK and USA) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1982 Apr 13 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 205
PREM19/1634 Security (Security Commission: review of security procedures; appointments; cases referred; 'Three Advisers' on appeals against positive vetting clearance refusals - terms of reference and procedures) 1981 Apr 1 1985 Sep 5 2014 Dec 30 Secret 253
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
PREM19/133 European policy (European Council, Dublin Nov 1979 - briefing) 1979 Nov 19 1979 Nov 24 2009 Dec 30 Secret 418
PREM19/822 Japan (Commercial relations with Japan; proposed Nissan car plant in the UK) (Part 2) 1981 Dec 2 1982 Nov 17 2012 Dec 28 Secret 238

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