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 ascending Link to selections
PREM19/2731 Housing​​​​​​​ (Reform of housing benefits) 1980 Jun 24 1989 May 4 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2135 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; Layfield report on new Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR), Sizewell 'B'; doctrine of collective responsibility aspect of Energy Secretary's decision to accept Layfield recommendation; study by Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development (ACARD) on UK future nuclear reactor programme) (Part 11) 1987 Feb 4 1987 Nov 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1624 Security (Allegations made to Kenneth Warren MP by John Kane about security standards at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) establishments) 1979 Jun 14 1984 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2925 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring: privatisation of PSA services) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 4 1990 Jul 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3090 Ministers ​​​​​​​(Presence of Ministers in the House of Commons) 1990 Apr 11 1990 Apr 18 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1971 South Korea (UK/South Korea relations; internal situation; death of President Park; election and resignation of President Choi Kya-hah; inauguration of President Chun Doo-hwan; visit of President Chun to UK and meeting with Prime Minister, 9 April 1986) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 27 1986 Aug 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3509 Post and Telecommunications ​​​​​​​(Future of the Post Office: Telecommunications Duopoly Review)(Part 13) 1990 Jul 6 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2742 Industrial Policy (Policy towards employee involvement: profit sharing and share options) 1979 Sep 25 1989 Oct 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3237 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Harare, Zimbabwe, October 1991)(Part 17) 1990 Jun 7 1991 Oct 9 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3611 Arts and Amenities ​​​​​​​(Charitable trust for works of art in the Palace of Westminster) 1990 Jun 28 1991 Mar 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/132 Zambia (Policy) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Jul 23 Closed
PREM19/1459 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 11 1985 Aug 2 1985 Mar 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1917 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Israel, May 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Feb 4 1986 Dec 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/4284 Liechenstein (UK/Liechtenstein relations: internal situation) 1984 Oct 1 1993 Dec 22 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2508 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 9) 1987 Sep 23 1987 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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