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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/415 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 5) 1981 Mar 11 1981 May 17 2011 Dec 30 Secret 397
PREM19/78 Iran (Jewish community - correspondence with President Carter) 1979 May 15 1979 May 24 2009 Dec 30 Secret 23
PREM19/1610 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Frank Field MP on the proposed closure of Manchester Steel's Bidston works) 1985 May 9 1985 Jun 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1270 Housing (Policy on the sale of council houses; the right to buy) 1979 May 11 1984 Mar 9 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1005 Economic policy (Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976: exemption of Stock Exchange) 1979 May 30 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 190
PREM19/670 China (Prime Minister's visit to China, Hong Kong & Japan, September 1982: briefing) (Part 1) 1982 May 6 1982 Sep 13 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 257
PREM19/329 Parliament (Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay) (Part 2) 1980 Feb 12 1980 Jul 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 194
PREM19/3302 Elections ​​​​​​​(Election procedure)(Part 4) 1990 Sep 5 1991 Jan 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2662 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community; Cabinet Office brief on Community competence) (Part 41) 1989 Mar 1 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 387
PREM19/2139 Energy (Staffing of Nuclear Installations Inspectorate) 1980 Mar 5 1987 Dec 9 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 67
PREM19/2769 Luxembourg (Prime Minister's visits to Luxembourg, October 1979 and April 1989: policy) 1979 Sep 20 1989 Apr 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1611 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with James Hill MP to discuss Southampton's Docks and Freeport) 1985 May 16 1985 Oct 14 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1888 Prime Minister (Forward speaking engagements)(Part 1) 1979 May 18 1986 Mar 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1528 Home Affairs (Football hooliganism: behaviour of British football fans abroad; European Cup Final disaster in Brussels, May 1985) (Part 3) 1985 Jun 1 1985 Jun 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 309
PREM19/1192 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 28) 1984 Sep 5 1984 Oct 18 2014 Jan 3 Secret 300

Pages