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
PREM19/354 Royal Family (Visit to France by Prince Charles, July 1980) 1980 Apr 15 1980 Apr 30 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 8
PREM19/4390 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with the Chairmen of ICI, Sir Maurice Hodgson, 20 October 1980 and Sir Denys Henderson, 19 June 1991) 1980 Oct 2 1993 Jan 22 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2257 Industrial Policy (Future of the Rover Group) (Part 15) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret Named Distribution Only 353
PREM19/2977 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 47) 1990 Jul 2 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2149 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 17) 1987 Apr 3 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1629 Security (Possible penetration of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Confidential communications) 1982 Mar 4 1985 Dec 6 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1289 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 18) 1984 Nov 1 1984 Dec 18 2014 Jan 3 Secret 147
PREM19/616 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 5) 1982 Apr 8 1982 Apr 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 216
PREM19/275 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; negotiations for release of hostages; sanctions) Part 5 1980 Feb 1 1980 Apr 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 203
PREM19/4127 European Policy (Franco-Germany relations: meetings between Chancellor Schmidt and President Giscard d'Estaing; meetings between Chancellor Kohl and President Mitterrand) 1980 Mar 17 1993 Jul 14 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3432 Luxembourg (Visits of Prime Ministers of Luxembourg, Pierre Werner and Jacques Santer) 1980 Nov 14 1991 Jun 25 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 225
PREM19/2164 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 34) 1986 Dec 1 1987 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 247
PREM19/2802 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's term of office: Mrs Thatcher's 10th anniversary as Prime Minister) 1987 Sep 9 1989 May 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1991 Transport (Channel Fixed Link (Channel Tunnel); Euroroute) (Part 4) 1985 Jan 2 1986 Jan 31 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/1208 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 16A) 1984 May 22 1984 May 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 212

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