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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3537 Security ​​​​​​​(Ministerial protection (personal): security arrangements for the overnight policing of Ministers' cars; VIP security)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1987 Oct 2 1991 Jul 26 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/420 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 15) 1981 Oct 9 1981 Oct 23 2011 Dec 30 Secret 166
PREM19/2037 Civil Service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 3) 1986 Aug 12 1988 Dec 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2702 Government Machinery (Review of administrative forms) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 3 1989 Dec 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1830 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations; United States response to Libyan terrorism) (Part 4B) 1984 Apr 12 1986 Apr 16 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1487 European Policy (Dean Dove Ltd: provision of financial assistance by Department of Trade and Industry, in breach of European Community guidelines) 1985 Jan 10 1985 Jan 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 21
PREM19/1152 USA (United States foreign policy; nuclear non-proliferation) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 21 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Secret 339
PREM19/3057 Italy (Anglo-Italian relations: internal situation) (Part 2) 1986 Jan 24 1990 Mar 5 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/24 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 1) 1979 May 4 1979 Jun 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 111
PREM19/334 Prime Minister (Meeting with Clifton C Garvin Jr, Chairman of Exxon, June 1980) 1979 Mar 6 1980 Aug 28 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 47
PREM19/3645 Defence (Enlargement of the Western European Union (WEU)​​​​​​​) 1988 Apr 1 1992 Jan 2 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2412 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Chilver, 13 April 1988) 1988 Jan 20 1988 Apr 14 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 6
PREM19/1892 Prime Minister (Visit to Capenhurst, Springfields, Heysham and Sellafield, November 1985) 1984 Oct 29 1986 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2413 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Sieff) 1980 Apr 8 1987 Jun 16 2016 Jul 21 Secret 72
PREM19/1893 Prime Minister (Correspondence from Councillor John Holt about threatened closure of Case Tractors, Meltham) 1985 Jul 1 1986 Mar 10 2016 Feb 19

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