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? File classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/348 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: submission folder; proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 1-10) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Sep 14 2010 Dec 30 Secret 419
PREM19/691 Defence (Replacement of Royal Air Force (RAF) communications aircraft; aircraft for Queen's Flight) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 16 1982 Nov 24 2013 Nov 20 10 Secret 254
PREM19/2453 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Economic Summit in Toronto and to Ottawa, June 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 30 1988 Aug 10 2016 Jul 21 7 Secret 318
PREM19/1152 USA (United States foreign policy; nuclear non-proliferation) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 21 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Secret 339
PREM19/447 Economic policy (Report by Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) on pay: ministerial consideration) 1981 Jun 19 1981 Sep 22 2011 Dec 30 Secret 106
PREM19/72 Industrial policy (Future of Rolls-Royce) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Nov 14 2009 Dec 30 Secret 97
PREM19/1494 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 4) 1983 Oct 27 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 315
PREM19/910 Security (Publication of book by Gordon Welchman (former head of Hut 6) called 'The Hut Six Story' on wartime German Enigma cryptanalysis: reactions of US and UK governments) 1982 Apr 30 1982 Jul 27 2012 Dec 28 Secret 8
PREM19/785 Hong Kong (UK trade with China; power projects in Hong Kong and China involving UK companies) (Part 2) 1981 Jan 5 1982 Nov 29 2012 Dec 28 Secret 261
PREM19/165 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 8) 1980 Jan 29 1980 Feb 29 2010 Dec 30 Secret 176
PREM19/1001 Economic policy (Public sector pay policy; Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 10) 1983 Apr 22 1983 Sep 16 2013 Aug 1 Secret 108
PREM19/541 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 4) 1981 Jul 22 1981 Nov 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 284
PREM19/1120 Royal family (Queen Mother's visits to Northern Ireland, April 1982 and June 1983) 1982 Apr 20 1983 Jun 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 8
PREM19/416 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 6) 1981 May 18 1981 Jun 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/41 Elections (Briefing for incoming PM) 1979 May 4 1979 May 7 2009 Dec 30 Secret 93

Pages