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?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/3847 Manpower (Labour market statistics: Employment Market Research Unit) 1982 Nov 10 1992 Mar 3 2017 Dec 29 Secret 245
PREM19/2303 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 35) 1988 Apr 5 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 390
PREM19/3021 Home Affairs (Civil disorder) (Part 4) 1988 Jun 21 1990 Dec 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2273 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 18) 1987 Nov 18 1987 Apr 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1315 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 13 1984 Oct 22 2014 Sep 29 Secret 375
PREM19/977 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 9) 1982 Jul 6 1983 Apr 29 2013 Aug 1 Secret 221
PREM19/4242 India (Foreign policy: internal situation; re-election of Mrs Gandhi; aid to India; Indo-Soviet relations; Indo-Pakistan relations) (Part 2) 1990 Jun 1 1993 Apr 23 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/643 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 1) 1981 Sep 14 1982 Apr 13 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 30
PREM19/302 Nationalised Industries (Coal mines) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 27 1980 Mar 17 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 145
PREM19/3386 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 24) 1990 Apr 1 1991 Mar 28 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3177 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union: call on Prime Minister by Robert Conquest; Soviet and East European studies) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 13 1990 Jun 7 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 165
PREM19/2196 Government Machinery (Propriety of Ministers arranging briefing for Conservative backbenchers) 1979 Dec 5 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 13
PREM19/2883 Trade (Consumer safety) 1984 Feb 6 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2064 Defence (Future UK defence policy; merchant shipping and defence needs; Defence White Paper) (Part 3) 1987 Nov 10 1988 Nov 29 2016 Jul 21
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

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