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 ascending File classification Pages
PREM19/3576 Transport (Compulsory use of car seat belts)​​​​​​​ (Part 1) 1979 Jun 1 1991 Jun 25 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 83
PREM19/2477 Science and Technology (Maintaining the strength of the science base: the science budget; national priorities for science and technology) (Part 5) 1986 Nov 14 1987 Aug 13 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 200
PREM19/1985 Trade (Commodity policy; International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines; Select Committee report on the tin crisis; renegotiation of International Natural Rubber Agreement) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 5 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2658 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Environmental Protection Bill) (Part 12) 1989 Nov 1 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 220
PREM19/1804 Industrial policy (Moratorium on applications for support and innovation: research and development) (Part 1) 1984 Nov 8 1986 Jan 20 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 238
PREM19/1462 Economic policy (Pay Review Body reports on pay of civil servants, armed forces and National Health Service (NHS); Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB) pension awards; pay of Permanent and Deputy Secretaries) (Part 6) 1984 Mar 6 1985 May 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 281
PREM19/137 Afghanistan (Soviet invasion) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 28 1980 Apr 9 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/1127 Security (Intelligence organisation, priorities of intelligence agencies; appointment of Chairman Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), membership of JIC) 1982 Dec 20 1983 Mar 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 46
PREM19/790 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 2) 1982 Sep 8 1982 Oct 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 240
PREM19/454 Energy (Proposal for North Sea gas gathering pipeline) 1979 Jul 2 1981 Sep 14 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 243
PREM19/4299 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle East countries) (Part 5) 1990 Nov 1 1993 Feb 25 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3113 Posts and Telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: sale of Girobank; Telecommunications Duopoly Review) (Part 12) 1989 Jan 23 1990 Jun 20 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 289
PREM19/3696 Education (Pay of university teachers and academic staff) 1980 Apr 25 1992 Jul 13 2017 Dec 29 Secret 176
PREM19/2380 Parliament (Parliamentary Secretary's minutes on forthcoming Parliamentary affairs) (Part 2) 1985 Jul 3 1987 Oct 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 191
PREM19/607 Defence (Nuclear release procedures; understandings between the USA and UK on use of nuclear weapons and bases) (Part 2) 1980 Apr 29 1981 Mar 9 Retained Unknown

Pages