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
PREM19/1872 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding: Hill-Norton Committee Report on Hull Forms for Warships ('short fat ships')) (Part 1) 1985 Jul 2 1986 Sep 29 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1179 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, New Delhi, November 1983) (Part 7) 1983 Nov 27 1984 Jan 20 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 260
PREM19/2127 Education (Reorganisation of schools in Ilkeston, Derbyshire: Prime Minister's concern at deficiencies in Department of Education and Science (DES) decision-making procedures) 1987 Dec 2 1988 Feb 24 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/1548 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 19) 1984 Dec 31 1985 Mar 28 2014 Dec 30 1 Top Secret UK Eyes A 366
PREM19/143 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 1) 1979 May 23 1980 Nov 6 2010 Dec 30 1 Confidential 248
PREM19/1500 Foreign Policy (Briefing for officials for Prime Minister's visit to South-East Asia, April 1985) 1985 Apr 4 1985 Apr 13 2014 Dec 30 1 Confidential 203
PREM19/2260 Information and Publicity (Media coverage of Wiltshire arrests: Home Office guidance circular to journal editors on terrorist threat to VIPs) 1987 Sep 15 1987 Sep 16 2016 Jul 21 1 Confidential 5
PREM19/1180 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, New Delhi, November 1983; security of small states) (Part 8) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Aug 17 2014 Jan 3 1 Confidential 102
PREM19/963 China (Sino/British relations; defence sales) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 341
PREM19/2099 Economic Policy (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor of the Exchequer) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 3 1988 Aug 22 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 246
PREM19/1599 Posts and Telecommunications (Privatisation of British Telecom (BT) and National Girobank: future of the Post Office) (Part 9) 1984 Aug 1 1985 Jul 30 2014 Dec 30 1
PREM19/629 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 18) 1982 May 18 1982 May 21 2012 Dec 28 1 Secret 276
PREM19/128 Vatican (Possible papal visit to Ireland, north & south) 1979 Jul 10 1979 Oct 1 2009 Dec 30 1 Confidential 67
PREM19/1117 Romania (Visit to UK by Manea Manescu, Vice President of the Romanian State Council and member of the Political Executive Committee of the Romanian Communist Party) 1983 Jun 22 1983 Sep 28 2013 Aug 1 1 Confidential 33
PREM19/1295 Italy (MT’s visits to Italy; Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 2) 1980 Oct 29 1984 Feb 2 2014 Jan 3 1 Secret 283

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