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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3644 Defence (Defence sales)​​​​​​​ (Part 13) 1990 Jul 1 1992 Dec 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1689 Defence (Development of torpedoes) 1979 Jul 20 1986 Dec 23 2014 Dec 30 Secret 111
PREM19/3645 Defence (Enlargement of the Western European Union (WEU)​​​​​​​) 1988 Apr 1 1992 Jan 2 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3647 Defence (Future of HMS Endurance and her replacement HMS Polar Circle​​​​​​​) 1981 Jul 21 1992 May 7 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2063 Defence (Future UK defence policy: merchant shippling and defence needs; NATO maritime rules of engagement) (Part 2) 1983 Nov 1 1987 Jul 27 2016 Nov 7 5 Secret 170
PREM19/4060 Defence (Meetings with the Chiefs of Staff) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1993 Oct 28 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2614 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative) (Part 5) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Jan 16 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3650 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative; Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS))​​​​​​​ (Part 6) 1989 Jun 14 1992 Sep 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/4055 Defence (Nuclear test veterans and workers) (Part 1) 1990 Dec 14 1993 Dec 8 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3651 Defence (Prime Minister's meeting with Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, October 1986: memorandum on 'The Defence of Europe in the Nuclear Age'​​​​​​​) 1986 Sep 26 1987 Jan 20 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/4052 Defence (Prime Minister's visits to Clyde Submarine Base: anniversaries in the history of Nuclear Powered Ballistic Submarines (SSBN); launch of a frigate in Scotland) 1989 Jun 15 1993 Jan 13 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3652 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems) (Part 9) 1990 Aug 2 1992 Feb 28 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2935 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems) (Part 8) 1990 Jan 18 1990 Jul 30 2016 Dec 30 10 Secret UK Eyes A 182
PREM19/2070 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA)) (Part 5) 1987 Jan 6 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21 Secret UK Eyes A 409
PREM19/2612 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: major Ministry of Defence (MOD) procurement projects; new tank for the Army) (Part 7) 1988 Nov 11 1989 Dec 21 2017 Jul 20

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