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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1474 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC): flotation of Britoil, BNOC oil-producing business) (Part 5) 1982 Jan 14 1985 Nov 12 2014 Dec 30 4 Secret 282
PREM19/1285 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 15) 1984 Jan 6 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 4
PREM19/2213 Guyana (Visits to UK by Guyanese Presidents Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte) 1980 Jan 11 1988 May 11 2016 Jul 21 4 Confidential 219
PREM19/1029 European policy (European Council meeting, Stuttgart, June 1983) (Part 16 (incorporating Part 14)) 1982 Nov 1 1983 Jun 23 2013 Aug 1 3 Secret 266
PREM19/1976 Spain (Internal situation; UK/Spain relations) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 10 1986 Feb 21 2016 Jul 21 3
PREM19/2021 Bahrain (UK/Bahraini relations) ​​​​​​​(Part 1) 1979 Jun 26 1987 Jul 16 2016 Dec 30 3 Secret 264
PREM19/2417 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan) 1983 Feb 3 1988 Dec 5 2016 Jul 21 3 Confidential 54
PREM19/818 Ireland (Security of the Northern Ireland border) 1979 Sep 6 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 3 Top Secret - Cabinet 2 16
PREM19/2565 USA (Internal political situation: 1988 Presidential election campaign) (Part 2) 1985 Jan 3 1988 Oct 31 2016 Nov 7 3 Secret 299
PREM19/81 Ireland (Northern Ireland situation) (Part 2) 1979 Aug 27 1979 Sep 28 2010 Nov 10 3 Secret 184
PREM19/739 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 15) 1982 Mar 22 1982 May 14 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 196
PREM19/788 Hong Kong (Prime Minister's visit to Hong Kong, September 1982: policy) 1982 Jul 20 1982 Oct 4 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 236
PREM19/1112 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visit to Falklands, Jan 1983) (Part 1) 1982 Aug 10 1983 Jan 12 2013 Aug 1 3 Top Secret 197
PREM19/1064 Industrial policy (Companies Bill; purchase by a company of its own shares; wider share ownership) 1979 Oct 18 1983 May 26 2013 Aug 1 3 Confidential 176
PREM19/901 Saudi Arabia (Visit to UK by King Khalid of Saudi Arabia, June 1981: talks with Prime Minister) 1981 Mar 3 1981 Aug 3 2012 Dec 28 3 Confidential 145

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