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? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/1423 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 5) 1982 Feb 11 1985 Jun 14 2014 Dec 30 Secret 263
PREM19/240 Gabon (Visit to UK by President Bongo, May 1980: call on Prime Minister) 1980 Apr 23 1980 May 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 43
PREM19/1957 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 3) 1982 Mar 18 1986 Oct 22 2016 Feb 19 Secret 251
PREM19/2453 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to G7 Economic Summit in Toronto and to Ottawa, June 1988: administrative arrangements) 1987 Jun 30 1988 Aug 10 2016 Jul 21 7 Secret 318
PREM19/101 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 2) 1979 Jul 12 1979 Nov 23 2009 Dec 30 Secret 334
PREM19/616 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 5) 1982 Apr 8 1982 Apr 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 216
PREM19/957 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks): documentation used by Prime Minister in preparation for 25-26 January 1983 debate in House of Commons on Committee's report) 1983 Jan 14 1983 Jan 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 140
PREM19/3827 Israel (Visits to the UK by Israeli Foreign Ministers) 1986 Sep 15 1992 Sep 8 2017 Dec 29 8 Secret 179
PREM19/3218 Australia (Visit of the Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, to London, June 1989) (Part 2) 1988 Aug 30 1991 May 29 2017 Jul 20 3 Secret 196
PREM19/3422 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 21) 1990 Nov 1 1990 Dec 29 2017 Jul 20 Secret 356
PREM19/709 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 13) 1982 Jan 11 1982 Feb 19 2012 Dec 28 Secret 296
PREM19/3624 Canada (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Premiers of Canadian Provinces) 1979 Aug 6 1992 Feb 7 2017 Dec 29 Secret 90
PREM19/925 Soviet Union (Trade relations: credit restrictions; United States sanctions against Siberian pipeline - impact on John Brown Engineering and other European companies; controls on strategic exports) (Part 2) 1982 Apr 19 1982 Nov 11 2012 Dec 28 Secret 276
PREM19/1266 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 15) 1984 Jul 2 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3 3 Secret 241
PREM19/419 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 14) 1981 Feb 17 1981 Sep 16 2011 Dec 30 Secret 173

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