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
PREM19/661 Arts and amenities (Royal Opera House development appeal; Prime Minister’s meeting with Lord Drogheda and Sir Claus Moser) 1980 Feb 18 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 3 Confidential 127
PREM19/917 Security (Security at GCHQ: representations from Nicholas Edwards MP; untimely deaths of two GCHQ employees (Jack Wolfenden in an aircraft accident) and Ernest Peter Brockway (suspected suicide); question of a 'radio ham' who lived for 11 years with a translator at GCHQ) 1982 Nov 23 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 16
PREM19/581 Royal family (Visits to Northern Ireland by Princess Alexandra, June 1979 and June 1981) 1979 May 14 1981 May 29 2011 Dec 30 3 Secret 9
PREM19/1337 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 12) 1984 Mar 6 1984 Sep 26 2014 Jan 3 3
PREM19/2825 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris for Anglo-French Summit, February 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Jan 20 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30 3 Confidential 62
PREM19/2184 Germany (750th anniversary of Berlin in 1987) 1986 Jun 26 1987 May 22 2016 Jul 21 3 Secret 20
PREM19/2829 Royal Family (Royal visit to Brussels, November 1980) 1980 Jun 27 1989 Nov 20 2016 Dec 30 3 Confidential 9
PREM19/551 Nepal (Visits to UK by King Birendra of Nepal, September 1979 and November 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 15 1981 Apr 24 2011 Dec 30 3 Confidential 141
PREM19/1293 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 1 1984 Mar 5 2014 Jan 3 3
PREM19/1810 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 13) 1985 Dec 1 1986 Feb 14 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 316
PREM19/1273 India (UK/Indian relations) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 22 1984 Feb 27 2014 Jan 3 3 Top Secret 288
PREM19/2440 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Rhodes, December 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Nov 23 1988 Dec 5 2016 Nov 7 3 Confidential 50
PREM19/1617 Royal Family (Queen's visit to army units in Germany, May 1984: possible threat from Irish terrorism) 1984 May 16 1984 May 21 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 5
PREM19/2425 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with the World Leadership of Soviet Jewry and the 'Mothers of Freedom') 1983 Sep 12 1987 May 4 2016 Jul 21 3 Confidential 70
PREM19/2189 Government Hospitality (Reception arrangements for official visitors: Guards of Honour in the FCO courtyard. Note: With plans) 1980 Jan 10 1988 Aug 11 2016 Jul 21 3 Confidential 120

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