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
PREM19/709 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 13) 1982 Jan 11 1982 Feb 19 2012 Dec 28 Secret 296
PREM19/374 Sport (UK participation in Moscow Olympic Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) (Part 1) 1980 Jan 8 1980 Mar 6 2010 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/4409 Qatar (UK/Qatar relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 15 1993 Dec 14 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3262 Disasters (Lockerbie bombing, 21 December 1988: Pan Am 747 air crash) (Part 2a) 1989 Dec 2 1991 Nov 15 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3877 Parliament (Forthcoming Parliamentary affairs) (Part 4) 1980 Sep 1 1992 May 25 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2288 Jordan (Prime Minister's messages to King Hussein on births of his children) 1980 Apr 1 1986 Feb 12 2016 Jul 21 Restricted 20
PREM19/2999 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 2B) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2222 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers Commission Report on proposed takeover of House of Fraser by Lonrho) 1987 Jan 12 1987 Oct 28 Retained Closed for 40 years
PREM19/1643 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 2 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 311
PREM19/965 Civil service (Lecture on the Civil Service given by Sir John Hoskyns) 1982 Oct 15 1982 Dec 9 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 55
PREM19/630 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 19) 1982 Apr 22 1982 May 24 2012 Dec 28 Secret 131
PREM19/289 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 2) 1979 Nov 15 1980 Feb 26 2010 Dec 30 Secret 110
PREM19/4204 Home Affairs (Obscenity legislation (video nasties): includes meetings with Mary Whitehouse) (Part 2) 1986 Aug 2 1993 Sep 30 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2958 Education (Student loans) (Part 3) 1990 Jan 10 1990 Apr 4 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 41
PREM19/2182 France (Prime Minister's visits to France, November 1986 and March and July 1987) (Part 5) 1986 Oct 21 1987 Oct 30 2016 Jul 21 Top Secret UK Eyes A 287

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