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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/3548 Soviet Union (Contacts with and calls by Soviet Ambassadors) 1979 Sep 18 1991 Dec 3 2017 Jul 20 2 Secret 195
PREM19/2695 Germany (Anglo-German relations) (Part 4) 1986 Oct 3 1989 Aug 30 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 333
PREM19/639 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 28) 1982 Jul 21 1982 Aug 31 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 224
PREM19/2339 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review) (Part 13) 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 368
PREM19/3785 Histories (Official History of British Intelligence in the Second World War: Regimental History of the Intelligence Corps) 1980 Jan 1 1992 Oct 12 2017 Dec 29 Secret 161
PREM19/1324 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 4) 1982 Jul 19 1983 Jun 27 2014 Jan 3 Secret 256
PREM19/3170 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits, including child support) (Part 6) 1990 Jun 8 1990 Oct 30 2017 Jul 20 Secret 253
PREM19/167 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 10) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Oct 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/1198 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 12) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Mar 14 2014 Jan 3 Secret 388
PREM19/3389 Hong Kong (Prime Minister's meetings and correspondence with Sir Yue-Kong Pao, shipping magnate) (Part 3) 1986 Nov 4 1991 Oct 15 2017 Dec 29 10 Secret 170
PREM19/43 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 17 1979 Oct 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/2444 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain, September 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Dec 6 1988 Nov 14 2016 Nov 7 13 Secret 254
PREM19/606 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with South Africa) 1980 Apr 17 1981 Nov 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/1292 Ireland (Possible visit to Republic of Ireland by President Reagan; visit to USA by Irish Prime Minister) 1983 Dec 22 1984 Jan 24 2014 Jan 3 Secret 7
PREM19/1639 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 2) 1985 Apr 4 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 251

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