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 Titlesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/2034 Canada (Visits to UK by Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney) (Part 1) 1980 Apr 2 1988 Mar 28 2016 Dec 30 1 Secret 294
PREM19/3231 Canada ​​(Calls on the Prime Minister by Canadian High Commissioners; appointment of Canadian High Commissioners) 1979 Oct 19 1991 Sep 17 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 36
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
PREM19/3232 Cars (Use of the Government Car Service) (Part 2) 1989 Sep 5 1991 Dec 17 2017 Dec 29 4 Confidential 175
PREM19/3233 Cayman Islands (Relations with UK: internal situation) 1988 Sep 14 1990 Dec 17 2017 Jul 20 Unclassified 23
PREM19/3625 China (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Chinese Ambassador) 1979 May 30 1992 Mar 31 2017 Dec 29 3 Secret 161
PREM19/3 China (Premier Hua visit to UK, Oct 1979) (Part 1) 1979 May 18 1979 Nov 29 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 236
PREM19/1682 China (Sino-British relations) (Part 3) 1985 Jun 1 1986 Jun 29 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2921 China (Sino-Soviet relations: visits by Edward Heath MP) 1979 May 15 1990 Jan 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3234 China (UK/Chinese relations) (Part 5) 1987 May 22 1991 Feb 28 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1426 China (Visit to UK by Chinese Prime Minister, Zhao Ziyang, June 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 Jul 19 1985 Jun 21 2014 Dec 30 Secret 285
PREM19/3626 China (Visits to the UK by Vice Premiers of China: meetings with Chinese Foreign Ministers) 1980 May 8 1992 Nov 17 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 185
PREM19/2600 Civil Service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs: Andrew Report on the 'Review of Government Legal Services') (Part 4) 1989 Jan 13 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 23
PREM19/7 Civil Service (Christmas Message) 1979 Nov 20 1979 Nov 26 2009 Dec 30 Confidential 4
PREM19/1687 Civil Service (Civil servants' outside interests: acceptance of non-executive directorships; possible publication of essay by Michael Quinlan on the ethics of nuclear deterrence) 1984 Jan 31 1986 Aug 5 2014 Dec 30

Pages