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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3396 Industrial Policy ​​​​​​​(Research and development, including European Community framework programme for research and development)(Part 8) 1990 Jan 2 1991 Mar 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2260 Information and Publicity (Media coverage of Wiltshire arrests: Home Office guidance circular to journal editors on terrorist threat to VIPs) 1987 Sep 15 1987 Sep 16 2016 Jul 21 1 Confidential 5
PREM19/2262 Information and Publicity (Possible separate Press Office for Attorney General's Office: deferment until after 'Spycatcher' case) 1988 Jan 11 1988 Jan 20 2016 Jul 21 Management In Confidence 11
PREM19/2261 Information and Publicity (Relations between the Civil Service and the press; role of Chief Press Secretary, No 10 Downing Street) 1979 Dec 7 1988 Oct 7 2016 Jul 21 Management In Confidence 52
PREM19/2263 Information and Publicity (Status of transcripts of Prime Minister's press conferences: request from office of Neil Kinnock, Leader of the Opposition) 1988 Mar 14 1988 Mar 22 2015 Dec 30 Unclassified 6
PREM19/2264 Iran (The Shah of Iran's wish to settle in the UK: health and future of the Shah) 1979 May 14 1988 Apr 21 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 40
PREM19/3815 Iraq Exports to Iraq (Scott Inquiry) (Part 4) 1990 Oct 18 1992 Nov 19 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3398 Iraq ​​​​​​​(Exports to Iraq (Scott Inquiry))(Part 2) 1990 Jun 21 1991 Jun 30 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3399 Iraq ​​​​​​​(Imprisonment of British citizens in Iraq)(Part 1) 1979 Aug 1 1991 Feb 22 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2270 Ireland (Correspondence with Reverend William Martin Smyth MP) 1987 Nov 2 1988 Mar 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 17
PREM19/1813 Ireland (DeLorean sports cars) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 1 1986 Jan 21 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 310
PREM19/1812 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 12) 1986 Mar 1 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 307
PREM19/1811 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 14) 1986 Feb 17 1986 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 255
PREM19/1552 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 11) 1985 Nov 1 1985 Nov 14 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret and Personal 362
PREM19/1549 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 8) 1984 Nov 27 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret and Personal 313

Pages