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
PREM19/946 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with UK) 1981 Nov 12 1982 Nov 30 2012 Dec 28 Secret 217
PREM19/1290 Ireland (Anglo-Irish economic co-operation; supply of natural gas from Irish Republic field at Kinsale to Northern Ireland) 1979 May 10 1984 Sep 5 2014 Jan 3 Secret 209
PREM19/1638 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 1) 1984 Dec 28 1985 Mar 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 232
PREM19/2303 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 35) 1988 Apr 5 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 390
PREM19/136 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 21 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 257
PREM19/2729 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 14) 1989 Jan 6 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30 Secret 272
PREM19/3276 Economic Policy (Financial services: report of the Review Committee on Banking Services Law; Stock Exchange; company investigations; Diamond Report, 'A Review of Security Interests in Property' other than land) (Part 6) 1989 Feb 7 1991 Dec 19 2017 Jul 20 7 Secret 313
PREM19/3514 Regional Policy (Review of regional policy: Enterprise Zones; Lanarkshire) (Part 8) 1987 Jan 6 1991 Apr 29 2017 Jul 20 Secret 347
PREM19/1477 Environmental Affairs (Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution: effects of acid rain; agriculture and conservation) (Part 3) 1984 Nov 2 1985 May 30 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret 503
PREM19/1008 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Williamsburg) (Part 12) 1983 Apr 25 1983 May 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 325
PREM19/1352 Prime Minister (Allegations by Paddy Ashdown MP about Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations against British companies in the computer technology field allegedly embargo-breaking) 1984 May 9 1984 Dec 14 2014 Jan 3 Secret 282
PREM19/3696 Education (Pay of university teachers and academic staff) 1980 Apr 25 1992 Jul 13 2017 Dec 29 Secret 176
PREM19/419 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 14) 1981 Feb 17 1981 Sep 16 2011 Dec 30 Secret 173
PREM19/760 France (Anglo-French relations; Prime Minister's meetings with President Giscard d'Estaing and President Mitterrand) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 15 1982 Mar 25 2012 Dec 28 6 Secret 268
PREM19/1445 Defence (Ballistic missile defence: United States Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI); UK participation in research programme) (Part 3) 1985 May 30 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 285

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