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.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1706 Economic policy (International finance: indebtedness and effect on Western banking system; British exposure) (Part 5) 1985 Jan 1 1986 Feb 5 2014 Dec 30 Secret 387
PREM19/501 Ireland (Prime Minister's meeting with widows from Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, July 1980) 1980 Jun 11 1981 Apr 24 2011 Dec 30 1 Secret 62
PREM19/1577 Nationalised Industries (Prospects for steel industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) future strategy; plant closures) (Part 12) 1983 Jul 7 1985 Aug 27 2014 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/1578 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 15) 1984 Nov 21 1985 Jan 18 2014 Dec 30 Secret 379
PREM19/1121 Royal family (Visits to Northern Ireland by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester) 1981 Jun 12 1983 Nov 21 2013 Aug 1 Secret 9
PREM19/2157 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987) (Part 27) 1986 Sep 22 1987 Dec 14 2016 Dec 30 5 Secret 331
PREM19/222 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 4) 1979 Dec 3 1980 Jan 21 2010 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/1451 Drugs (Drug misuse: trafficking; proposed legislation; Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) report) (Part 2) 1985 Jun 3 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 219
PREM19/721 Economic policy (Liaison Committee on presentation of government policies; guidance to Ministers and MPs) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 1 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240
PREM19/595 Security (Leak to 'The Times' of Cabinet proceedings on public expenditure) 1981 Oct 21 1981 Oct 28 2011 Dec 30 Secret 18
PREM19/997 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 10) 1983 Feb 3 1983 Mar 15 2013 Aug 1 Secret 321
PREM19/1329 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 8) 1983 May 4 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 301
PREM19/1215 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power policy; fast reactor policy; Sizewell inquiry and procurement; structure of nuclear industry) (Part 8) 1982 Oct 27 1984 Nov 30 2014 Jan 3 Secret 339
PREM19/1089 National health (Waste in the National Health Service (NHS); priorities and policies for health and personal social services) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1983 Mar 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 282
PREM19/689 Defence (Review of home defence) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 6 1982 Mar 3 2012 Dec 28 Secret 99

Pages