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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/1541 Industrial policy (Industrial action in the oil industry: possible tanker drivers' strike; contingency planning) 1979 Nov 30 1985 Oct 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 187
PREM19/1205 Economic policy (Future of International Computers Limited (ICL)) (Part 2) 1981 Mar 10 1984 Feb 16 2014 Jan 3 Secret 291
PREM19/868 Parliament (Parliamentary discussion of intelligence matters) 1982 Dec 15 1982 Dec 23 2013 Sep 24 Secret 10
PREM19/532 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 7) 1981 Oct 1 1981 Nov 3 2011 Dec 30 Secret 178
PREM19/192 Economic policy (Demonetisation of old sixpence) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Jan 28 2010 Dec 30 Unclassified 6
PREM19/2806 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Robert Crandall, Chairman of American Airlines, 30 October 1989) 1989 Jun 30 1989 Nov 3 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3579 Treasury ​​​​​​​(Barlow Clowes)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Nov 16 1991 Dec 19 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1983 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Mar 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/111 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 6) 1979 Aug 31 1979 Sep 11 2009 Dec 30 Secret 206
PREM19/1461 Economic policy (Financial services: position of Stock Exchange, including future changes to structure and membership; Gower Report on Investor Protection; securities regulation; commercial fraud) (Part 1) 1983 Nov 24 1985 Sep 18 2014 Dec 30 Secret 351
PREM19/789 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 5 1982 Sep 8 2012 Dec 28 Secret 297
PREM19/453 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC); Petroleum and Continental Shelf Bill; Clyde oil field development) (Part 4) 1980 Jul 4 1981 Dec 22 2011 Dec 30 Secret 214
PREM19/4233 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations: internal situation) (Part 4) 1990 Jul 1 1993 Jun 21 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3124 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Margaret Harrison, Director of Home-Start, 13 July 1990) 1990 Jul 6 1990 Sep 17 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 72
PREM19/454 Energy (Proposal for North Sea gas gathering pipeline) 1979 Jul 2 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 243

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