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 ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/693 Defence (Arms control) (Part 3) 1979 Sep 3 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret 258
PREM19/352 Rhodesia (Constitutional Conference, Lancaster House, London, Sept-Dec 1979: proceedings & conference papers, CC (79) 106-109) 1979 Dec 15 1979 Dec 15 2010 Dec 30 Restricted 148
PREM19/3306 Environmental Affairs ​​​​​​​(Environmental pollution: climate change; Environment White Paper)(Part 18) 1990 Sep 14 1991 May 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3929 Saudi Arabia (UK/Saudi relations: internal situation) (Part 5) 1990 Apr 6 1992 Jun 29 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2253 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 4) 1987 Mar 28 1987 Jul 31 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Personal 201
PREM19/2974 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 44) 1989 Nov 30 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2138 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC): proposed sale of British Petroleum (BP) assets; Kuwaiti holding in BP) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 24 1988 Dec 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1627 Security (Sinking of Argentine warship General Belgrano in 1982: report by House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 1 1985 Oct 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1287 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 17A) 1984 Jul 2 1984 Oct 5 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/949 Agriculture (Role of Home Grown Cereals Authority; appointment of Chairman) 1983 Aug 16 1983 Nov 11 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 17
PREM19/273 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 3) 1979 Dec 23 1980 Jan 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/3436 Mauritius ​​​(UK/Mauritius relations) (Part 1) 1982 Jun 1 1991 Oct 10 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2798 Poland (UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance) (Part 10) 1988 Feb 8 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1542 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 11) 1984 Apr 5 1985 Jan 14 2014 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/1206 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 14) 1983 Jan 28 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 327

Pages