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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/2534 Soviet Union (Soviet military expenditure and capabilities) 1979 May 24 1988 Dec 7 2017 Dec 29 5 Top Secret 218
PREM19/1010 Education (Training colleges; extension of technical and vocational education; National Training Commission; responsibility for work related training) (Part 1) 1982 Oct 25 1983 Dec 23 2013 Aug 1 5 Secret 255
PREM19/2157 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987) (Part 27) 1986 Sep 22 1987 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30 5 Secret 331
PREM19/3192 Transport (British Rail: possible line closures; public transport disputes; proposed restructuring of British Rail) (Part 10) 1988 Oct 5 1990 Jan 11 2016 Dec 30 5 Secret 284
PREM19/2821 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Strasbourg for European Council meeting, December 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Sep 3 1989 Dec 12 2016 Dec 30 5 Confidential 85
PREM19/3408 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 27) 1989 Jan 20 1990 Apr 26 2017 Dec 29 5 Secret 303
PREM19/2894 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong; resettlement in the UK) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 3 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30 5 Confidential 251
PREM19/2382 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament: televising the State Opening) (Part 7) 1986 Jul 21 1987 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21 5 Confidential 282
PREM19/2053 Defence (Arms control) (Part 10) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Mar 10 2016 Jul 21 5 Top Secret 261
PREM19/3591 Zambia (Visits to the UK by the Zambian President, Kenneth Kaunda)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1979 Nov 1 1991 Nov 15 2017 Jul 20 5 Confidential 290
PREM19/3278 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - London, July 1991) (Part 31) 1988 Aug 22 1991 Mar 29 2017 Jul 20 5 Confidential 249
PREM19/2054 Defence (Arms control) (Part 11) 1987 Mar 11 1987 Apr 30 2016 Jul 21 5 Secret and Personal 228
PREM19/1113 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visit to Falklands, Jan 1983) (Part 2) 1983 Jan 10 1983 Mar 29 2013 Aug 1 5 Secret 153
PREM19/3352 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Kohl in Germany​​​) (Part 8) 1989 Apr 10 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20 6 Secret 215
PREM19/2775 National Health (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)) (Part 2) 1987 Jan 14 1989 Dec 15 2017 Jul 20 6 Secret 354

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