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? File classification Pagessort ascending
PREM19/160 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; UK/US understandings on the use of nuclear weapons and bases) (Part 1) 1979 May 9 1980 Mar 25 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2504 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 8 1987 Mar 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1718 Economic policy (Financial Services Bill: Stock Exchange deregulation, the 'Big Bang' commercial fraud; Roskill Report on Fraud Trials) (Part 3) 1985 Feb 3 1986 Sep 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4494 Uruguay (UK/ Uruguay relations: internal situation) 1981 Aug 24 1993 Jun 28 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3891 Prime Minister (Briefing for new Prime Minister and spouse) 1990 Nov 1 1992 Feb 5 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2985 European Policy (Participation by the UK in cases before the European Courts) 1988 Aug 2 1990 Dec 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2175 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain, September 1988) 1988 Aug 1 1988 Nov 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2986 European Policy (Calls on the Prime Minister by the President of the European Parliament) 1979 Oct 30 1990 Mar 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2176 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visit to Australia, Bahrain, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai, August 1988) (Part 1) 1988 May 12 1988 Jul 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/4172 Government Buildings (Building of international conference centre on Broad Sanctuary site: restoration of Westminster area; Richmond Yard) (Part 3) 1986 Nov 7 1993 Mar 15 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2832 Royal Family (Ownership of the Royal Palaces: Historic Royal Palaces Agency) 1987 Nov 26 1989 Dec 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2015 Angola (Internal situation: UK/Angola relations) (Part 2) 1984 Apr 3 1988 Aug 23 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2768 Local Government​​​​​​​ (Water industry: structural change; privatisation of the water authorities) (Part 6) 1988 Dec 6 1989 Aug 24 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2677 Food (Food safety) (Part 1) 1989 Jan 30 1989 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1814 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 20) 1985 Apr 1 1986 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30

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