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 classificationsort ascending Pages
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
PREM19/1842 Memoirs (James Callaghan's memoirs) 1986 Dec 9 1986 Dec 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4706 Grenada (UK/Grenada relations: internal situation; includes meetings with the government of Grenada) (Part 3) 1984 Jan 3 1994 Oct 17 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2736 Industrial Policy (Information technology (IT): Government policy towards IT) (Part 5) 1987 Feb 2 1989 Mar 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1674 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 40) 1985 May 2 1986 Jun 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4027 Cars (Replacement of cars at No 10: protection of Prime Minister's cars) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 4 1993 Feb 10 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1720 Economic policy (The Budget, 1985 and 1986) (Part 14) 1985 Mar 11 1986 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2512 Security (Sunday Times articles on the death of Stephen Ward and his association with M15 at the time of the Profumo affair: book by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy 'An Affair of State') 1982 Nov 29 1982 Nov 29 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1571 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 13) 1985 Jun 2 1985 Sep 3 Temporarily retained
PREM19/1588 New Zealand (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers Robert Muldoon and David Lange: briefs) (Part 1 annex) 1979 May 14 1985 Mar 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2095 Economic Policy (Indebtedness of various countries; Treasury reports on the international financial scene) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 20 1987 Oct 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2946 Economic Policy (Inland Revenue: PAYE computer project; International Computers Limited (ICL)) (Part 3) 1984 Apr 6 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30

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