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 classification Pagessort ascending Link to selections
PREM19/1381 Security (Information leaked by ‘The Guardian’ about siting of cruise nuclear missiles at Greenham Common; Sarah Tisdall not referred to Security Commission) 1983 Oct 24 1984 Apr 9 Retained Retained
PREM19/3872 Pakistan Visit to the UK by President Zia-ul-Haq 1980 Sep 1 1992 May 25 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2993 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 11) 1989 Feb 1 1990 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2216 Home Affairs (Assaults on children: inquiry into child abuse and attached report on child abuse in Cleveland; activities of the Paedophile International Exchange) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 1 1988 Sep 5 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1302 Libya (Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 3A) 1984 May 1 1984 May 25 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3247 Czechoslovakia ​​​​​​​(Letter to the Prime Minister from Mrs Eva Kanturkova about the arrest and detention of the signatories of Charter 77) 1979 Jun 28 1981 Dec 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2838 Scotland (Scottish High Court judges: possible homosexual scandal) 1989 Dec 22 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2033 Cameroon (UK/Cameroon relations) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 1 1988 Mar 25 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/3390 Housing ​​​​​​​(Housing policy)(Part 17) 1990 Jul 1 1991 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2688 Foreign Policy (Consular Fees (Amendment) Bill: increases in consular fees) 1979 Jul 10 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1141 Sport (Invitation to Princess Anne to become President of British Olympic Association) 1983 Mar 4 1983 Apr 12 Closed until 2024-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/3532 Security ​​​​​​​(Security of the Secret Service)​​​​​​​ (Part 14) 1990 May 1 1991 Jun 27 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1853 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): Value for Money seminars; NHS Management Board) (Part 5) 1985 Apr 1 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2535 Soviet Union (Domestic scene: Soviet leadership succession (Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, Gorbachev)) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 20 1987 Aug 5 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1397 Trade (Britain’s international trade policies; problems with Spain and Japan; rolling back protectionism; export promotion) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 4 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3

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