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 releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/3893 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with the Cabinet Secretary) (Part 1) 1984 Sep 1 1992 Mar 9 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3984 USA (United States nuclear defence strategy: US defence policy) 1980 Aug 6 1992 May 28 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3342 Foreign Policy (Summary notes on Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Assessments) (Part 4) 1989 Aug 1 1991 Feb 22 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3434 Malaysia (UK/Malaysia relations: internal situation) (Part 4) 1989 Nov 6 1991 Nov 29 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3892 Prime Minister (Demise of a Prime Minister in office) 1989 Jan 31 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3383 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Registration of children's homes) 1979 Jun 7 1991 Jun 4 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3891 Prime Minister (Briefing for new Prime Minister and spouse) 1990 Nov 1 1992 Feb 5 Temporarily Retained by Department
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
PREM19/3981 USA (Visit to the UK by George Shultz, US Secretary of State) (Part 2) 1987 Dec 1 1992 May 25 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3260 Defence (Anglo-French nuclear collaboration) (Part 1) 1979 May 31 1991 Apr 13 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3879 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament: televising the proceedings of the House of Commons) (Part 10) 1980 Aug 1 1992 Mar 25 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3825 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 6) 1990 Oct 1 1992 Feb 6 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3968 Treasury (Secret Vote cash limits: Intelligence Agencies estimates) 1990 Oct 10 1992 Dec 1 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3329 Ex-Prime Ministers (Policy on requests by former Prime Ministers for access to papers from their administration) (Part 1) 1974 Apr 1 1991 Jan 24 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3824 Ireland (Brian Nelson: public interest issues and protection of intelligence sources and methods​​​​​​​) 1990 Sep 1 1992 Dec 14 Temporarily Retained by Department

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