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
PREM19/4051 Defence (Strategic food stockpile) 1979 Jun 20 1993 Feb 22 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3516 Royal Family ​​​​​​​(Civil List)(Part 6) 1990 Jul 2 1991 Dec 12 2032 Jan 1
PREM19/2727 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 20) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Feb 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1846 Defence (Policing of demonstrations at military bases: activities of anti-nuclear demonstrators) (Part 1) 1983 Feb 17 1986 Mar 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2945 Economic Policy (Houston Economic Summit, July 1990) (Part 30) 1989 Dec 21 1990 Aug 20 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3624 Canada (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Premiers of Canadian Provinces) 1979 Aug 6 1992 Feb 7 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1910 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Norway, September 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Sep 16 1986 Oct 13 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2583 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 2 1989 Jun 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1767 Government Buildings (The building of an international conference centre on the Broad Sanctuary site and the redevelopment of the Bridge Street and Richmond Yard sites) (Part 2) 1983 Mar 16 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3211 USA ​​​​​​​(United States foreign policy: USA/European relations) (Part 3) 1987 Jan 9 1990 Mar 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3794 Home Affairs (Review of restrictions on shopping hours and Sunday trading: Shops Bill 1986; review of licensing hours) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 12 1992 Jan 30 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3099 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 19) 1990 May 1 1990 Nov 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2399 Prime Minister (Proposal for a Margaret Thatcher Chair of International Relations) 1987 Oct 12 1988 Jun 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1687 Civil Service (Civil servants' outside interests: acceptance of non-executive directorships; possible publication of essay by Michael Quinlan on the ethics of nuclear deterrence) 1984 Jan 31 1986 Aug 5 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1344 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; draft licence for British Telecom (BT)) (Part 7) 1983 Apr 12 1984 Jan 11 2014 Jan 3

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