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
PREM19/854 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 6) 1982 Feb 12 1982 Sep 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 297
PREM19/1197 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 11) 1983 Mar 17 1984 Feb 28 2014 Jan 3 Secret 336
PREM19/3390 Housing (Housing policy) (Part 17) 1990 Jul 1 1991 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20 Secret 322
PREM19/1919 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, USA, November 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Jul 2 1986 Dec 8 2016 Feb 19 2 Secret 96
PREM19/1074 Lebanon (Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 3) 1982 Jul 12 1983 Sep 5 2013 Aug 1 Secret 423
PREM19/3595 Economic Policy (Public sector pay policy: Treasury monitoring reports) (Part 14) 1987 Sep 22 1991 May 30 2017 Jul 20 1 Secret 311
PREM19/606 Zimbabwe (Internal situation; aid; relations with South Africa) 1980 Apr 17 1981 Nov 2 2011 Dec 30 Secret 258
PREM19/1292 Ireland (Possible visit to Republic of Ireland by President Reagan; visit to USA by Irish Prime Minister) 1983 Dec 22 1984 Jan 24 2014 Jan 3 Secret 7
PREM19/1639 Social Services (Reform of social security: pensions, housing benefit and supplementary benefit; child support) (Part 2) 1985 Apr 4 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/2304 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 5) 1986 Sep 2 1987 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19 Secret 341
PREM19/1508 Government Machinery (Allocation of Ministerial responsibilities) 1979 May 8 1985 Oct 15 2014 Dec 30 Secret 123
PREM19/137 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Apr 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/484 Home affairs (Civil disorder: riots in Brixton, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester & London; Prime Minister's meetings with community leaders; anti-riot equipment for the police; Urban Programme; implications for local authority spending) 1980 Apr 2 1981 Oct 29 2011 Dec 30 Secret 247
PREM19/3438 Memoirs (Policy on Ministerial memoirs: Sir Alan Walters' book 'Sterling in Danger'; 'Downing Street Cook - Recipes from the Thatcher Years') (Part 2) 1988 Sep 16 1991 Feb 6 2017 Jul 20 2 Secret 491
PREM19/11 Cuba (Soviet ground forces) 1979 Sep 5 1979 Dec 17 2009 Dec 30 Secret 28

Pages