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
PREM19/1292 Ireland (Possible visit to Republic of Ireland by President Reagan; visit to USA by Irish Prime Minister) 1983 Dec 22 1984 Jan 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/954 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing - defence after repossession) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 27 1983 Mar 12 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/3349 Gabon ​​​​​​​(UK/Gabon relations)(Part 1) 1980 Jan 3 1991 Mar 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2727 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 20) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Feb 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2010 Aerospace (European Airbus) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 18 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3490 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meeting with Hal Miller MP to discuss the Health Service in the West Midlands (18 February 1988) and subsequent meetings (April and June 1991) about the motor industry) 1987 Dec 3 1991 Jun 4 2017 Jul 20
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
PREM19/1809 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 12) 1985 Nov 15 1985 Nov 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2583 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 2 1989 Jun 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3641 Defence Basing of United States Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM) in the UK (Part 1) 1980 Apr 18 1992 May 20 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
PREM19/1730 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 6) 1986 Jan 6 1986 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1387 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 10 1984 Feb 9 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3982 USA (Visits to the UK by George H W Bush and Dan Quayle, Vice Presidents of the USA) (Part 2) 1987 Aug 11 1992 Feb 14 2017 Dec 29

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