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 descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/977 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 9) 1982 Jul 6 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 221
PREM19/3334 Foreign Policy ​​​​​​​(Relations between UK, France and Federal Republic of Germany) 1987 Apr 3 1991 Feb 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/643 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 1) 1981 Sep 14 1982 Apr 13 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 30
PREM19/3955 Sport (Withdrawal of the Soviet Union from the Los Angeles Olympic Games, 1984: Yugoslavia and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics) 1984 May 8 1992 Jul 22 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/302 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 27 1980 Mar 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 145
PREM19/2238 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 12) 1988 May 3 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 404
PREM19/2956 Education (General policy on education) (Part 25) 1990 Apr 2 1990 May 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1235 Foreign policy (Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) assessments summaries produced by Sir Percy Cradock) 1983 Mar 16 1984 Nov 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/562 Posts and telecommunications (Post Office: postal and telecommunications monopoly (possible reference to Monopolies and Mergers Commission); Post Office pay, pricing and finances; British Telecommunications Bill) (Part 2) 1980 Jul 7 1981 Feb 27 2011 Dec 30 Secret 158
PREM19/222 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 4) 1979 Dec 3 1980 Jan 21 2010 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/3471 Nigeria ​​​​​​​(Visits of Nigerian Foreign Ministers) 1980 May 16 1991 Apr 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2687 Foreign Policy (Correspondence with and about George Soros: economic proposals concerning the Soviet Union and Poland) 1987 Sep 3 1989 Sep 8 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 108
PREM19/2140 Energy (Release of 30 year old records about the Windscale fire in 1957) 1987 Feb 23 1987 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 9
PREM19/2770 Malaysia (UK/Malaysia relations: meetings with Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia) (Part 3) 1987 Aug 17 1989 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1491 European Policy (European Council meeting, Milan, June 1985) (Part 21) 1985 May 10 1985 Jun 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 276

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