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
PREM19/2799 Poland (UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance) (Part 11) Begins: 1989 Sep 1 Ends: 1989 Dec 27 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 6 File classification: Top Secret Cab One Pages: 430
PREM19/652 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 10) Begins: 1982 Jun 26 Ends: 1982 Sep 28 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Top Secret UK Eyes A Pages: 171
PREM19/973 Defence (Arms control) (Part 4) Begins: 1983 Jan 25 Ends: 1983 Nov 23 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Top Secret UK Eyes A Pages: 261
PREM19/3347 France (Visits to the UK by Jacques Chirac (Mayor of Paris / Prime Minister) and Michel Rocard (Prime Minister)) (Part 1) Begins: 1982 Jan 25 Ends: 1991 Mar 27 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 7 File classification: Top Secret UK Eyes A Pages: 340
PREM19/2182 France (Prime Minister's visits to France, November 1986 and March and July 1987) (Part 5) Begins: 1986 Oct 21 Ends: 1987 Oct 30 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Top Secret UK Eyes A Pages: 287
PREM19/2532 Soviet Union (Soviet economy: grain harvest) Begins: 1979 Dec 1 Ends: 1987 Jun 16 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Top Secret UK Eyes A Pages: 16
PREM19/1548 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 19) Begins: 1984 Dec 31 Ends: 1985 Mar 28 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Top Secret UK Eyes A Pages: 366
PREM19/651 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 9) Begins: 1982 Jun 7 Ends: 1982 Jun 25 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Top Secret UK Eyes B Pages: 95
PREM19/677 Civil service (Lecture by Sir Douglas Wass on 'The Public Service in Modern Society': draft sent to MT) Begins: 1982 Nov 26 Ends: 1982 Nov 29 Date of release: 2012 Dec 28 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 10
PREM19/2227 Home Affairs (Behaviour of British football fans abroad: football hooliganism) (Part 6) Begins: 1986 Sep 25 Ends: 1988 Jun 29 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 69
PREM19/2152 European Policy (Community-wide digital cellular radio system: Prime Minister's initiative at European Council meeting in London, December 1986) Begins: 1986 Nov 12 Ends: 1987 Sep 7 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 16
PREM19/2422 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Sir Brandon Rhys Williams MP) Begins: 1986 Nov 11 Ends: 1987 Nov 25 Date of release: 2016 Jul 21 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 72
PREM19/1052 Home affairs (Prison workshops and the Priority Suppliers Scheme) Begins: 1983 Mar 10 Ends: 1983 May 3 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 28
PREM19/2263 Information and Publicity (Status of transcripts of Prime Minister's press conferences: request from office of Neil Kinnock, Leader of the Opposition) Begins: 1988 Mar 14 Ends: 1988 Mar 22 Date of release: 2015 Dec 30 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 6
PREM19/3420 Labour Party (Speeches and interviews given by Labour MPs) Begins: 1979 Nov 1 Ends: 1991 Jun 17 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 55

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