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 ascending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3878 Parliament Pay and pensions of the Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Speaker (Part 1) 1979 Jun 29 1992 Apr 3 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3877 Parliament Forthcoming Parliamentary affairs (Part 4) 1980 Sep 1 1992 May 25 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2382 Parliament (Queen's Speeches on prorogation and opening of Parliament: televising the State Opening) (Part 7) 1986 Jul 21 1987 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21 5 Confidential 282
PREM19/2381 Parliament (Procedure for the Eve of Parliament Dinner) 1979 May 9 1987 Jun 23 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 55
PREM19/2380 Parliament (Parliamentary Secretary's minutes on forthcoming Parliamentary affairs) (Part 2) 1985 Jul 3 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 191
PREM19/2795 Parliament (Mr Speaker's official entertainment) 1989 Mar 1 1989 Mar 6 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 10
PREM19/2384 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 4 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 227
PREM19/2379 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 17) 1987 Nov 9 1988 Sep 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret 265
PREM19/2377 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 15) 1986 May 2 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 198
PREM19/2376 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: Select Committees) (Part 8) 1986 Jul 3 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 355
PREM19/3872 Pakistan Visit to the UK by President Zia-ul-Haq 1980 Sep 1 1992 May 25 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3871 Pakistan Internal situation: UK/Pakistan relations (Part 2) 1987 Aug 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2375 Overseas Aid (Sale of BAe 748 to Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT)) 1984 Dec 4 1987 Nov 26 2016 Jul 21 Secret 22
PREM19/2374 Overseas Aid (Overseas aid policy: Aid and Trade Provision (ATP) proposals and progress) (Part 5) 1985 Jul 11 1987 Jul 22 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 273
PREM19/2373 Overseas Aid (Management of Aid and Trade Provision (ATP): Hawker Siddeley diesels for Indonesia) 1984 Feb 6 1987 Feb 18 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 71

Pages