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 classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/297 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 4) 1980 Jul 2 1980 Aug 29 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 297
PREM19/344 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 14) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Feb 15 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 297
PREM19/2392 Posts and Telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; Government use of Mercury Communications Ltd; privatisation of National Girobank) (Part 11) 1987 Oct 5 1988 Dec 19 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 297
PREM19/960 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; development of cable systems and services; broadcasting policy) (Part 3) 1982 Nov 25 1983 May 5 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 297
PREM19/789 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 5 1982 Sep 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 297
PREM19/162 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 17 1980 Jan 25 2010 Dec 30 Secret 297
PREM19/854 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 6) 1982 Feb 12 1982 Sep 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 297
PREM19/1553 Italy (Italian PM’s visits to UK) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 3 1985 Sep 12 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 297
PREM19/2650 Education (Student loans: White Paper on Student Support) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 6 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 298
PREM19/1465 Economic policy (Meetings of National Economic Development Council (NEDC): future role) (Part 3) 1982 Jan 1 1985 Sep 10 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 299
PREM19/2565 USA (Internal political situation: 1988 Presidential election campaign) (Part 2) 1985 Jan 3 1988 Oct 31 2016 Nov 7 3 Secret 299
PREM19/1584 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industry legislation: investment and financing review; privatisation; report on state monopolies) (Part 9) 1984 Jun 4 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 299
PREM19/3656 Disasters Chernobyl: Soviet nuclear accident, 26 April 1986 (Part 1) 1986 Apr 29 1992 Sep 21 2017 Dec 29 9 Top Secret 299
PREM19/1018 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 1 1983 Feb 8 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 300
PREM19/621 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 10) 1982 Apr 23 1982 Apr 26 2012 Dec 28 Secret 300

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