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? File classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/2316 Manpower (Special employment measures: Income Support for 16-18 year olds) (Part 16) 1987 May 5 1987 Aug 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 162
PREM19/3806 Industrial Policy (Ports: national dock strike in 1989; privatisation of Trust Ports) (Part 6) 1989 Jun 1 1992 Mar 10 2017 Dec 29 Secret 310
PREM19/3264 Disasters (Piper Alpha oil platform explosion, 6 July 1988) (Part 1) 1988 Jul 7 1991 Mar 25 2017 Jul 20 Secret 131
PREM19/635 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 24) 1982 Jun 12 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 Secret 202
PREM19/175 Economic policy (Budget) (Part 2) 1979 Jun 11 1980 Feb 28 2010 Dec 30 Secret 225
PREM19/27 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1979 Jun 29 2009 Dec 30 2 Secret 288
PREM19/509 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Garret Fitzgerald); Anglo-Irish Summit, November 1981) (Part 5) 1981 Oct 22 1981 Nov 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/716 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 18) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Mar 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 474
PREM19/1059 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 10) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Dec 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 412
PREM19/932 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay dispute; investigation into 'flexible rostering' by Railway Staff National Tribunal under Lord McCarthy; railway finances review by Sir David Serpell) (Part 3) 1982 Feb 10 1982 May 7 2012 Dec 28 Secret 340
PREM19/2285 Japan (Anglo-Japanese relations) (Part 7) 1987 May 6 1988 Jun 30 2016 Nov 7 4 Secret 285
PREM19/3867 Norway (Visits to the UK by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norwegian Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 10 1992 Nov 25 2017 Dec 29 Secret 173
PREM19/2626 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 42) 1989 May 25 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30 Secret 415
PREM19/1153 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, September 1983) (Part 3) 1983 Aug 31 1983 Oct 14 2013 Aug 1 Secret 198
PREM19/308 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation; industrial action by steel unions; contingency planning) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 8 1980 Jan 22 2010 Dec 30 Secret 319

Pages