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 name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/1169 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 38) 1984 Sep 3 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 262
PREM19/849 Nationalised industries (Nationalised industry policy; financial control; objectives; consumer interests) (Part 5) 1981 Sep 21 1982 Feb 3 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 262
PREM19/435 Economic policy (Brandt Commission; relations with developing countries; North/South Dialogue; Cancun Summit, Mexico) (Part 2) 1980 Nov 12 1981 Sep 24 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 263
PREM19/2056 Defence (Arms control) (Part 13) 1987 Jun 15 1987 Nov 26 2016 Jul 21 6 Secret UK Eyes A 263
PREM19/1422 Broadcasting (Television licence fees: finances of BBC; pay in the BBC; review of external services) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 6 1985 Mar 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 263
PREM19/1423 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: patriation of the Canadian constitution) (Part 5) 1982 Feb 11 1985 Jun 14 2014 Dec 30 Secret 263
PREM19/2389 Police (Police policy) (Part 2) 1986 Apr 8 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 2 Secret 263
PREM19/2521 Social Services (Social Services Committee report on perinatal mortality and morbidity; independent review of morbidity in the Bonnybridge/Denny area (near Falkirk)) 1980 Nov 14 1987 May 7 2016 Jul 21 Restricted 263
PREM19/931 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay dispute) (Part 2) 1981 Aug 4 1982 Feb 9 2012 Dec 28 Secret 264
PREM19/2021 Bahrain (UK/Bahraini relations) ​​​​​​​(Part 1) 1979 Jun 26 1987 Jul 16 2016 Dec 30 3 Secret 264
PREM19/1820 Japan (Anglo-Japanese relations) (Part 5) 1985 Jun 7 1986 Dec 31 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 264
PREM19/1050 Home affairs (Family Policy Group; renewing the values of society) (Part 2) 1982 Nov 5 1983 Feb 28 2013 Aug 1 Secret 264
PREM19/955 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks); general correspondence) (Part 3) 1982 Oct 29 1983 Jan 18 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 264
PREM19/2311 Local Government (Water industry: structural change; privatisation of the water authorities) (Part 4) 1979 Jan 1 1988 Jan 1 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 264
PREM19/203 Energy (Energy Policy) (Part 3) 1979 Nov 5 1980 Feb 19 2010 Dec 30 Secret 264

Pages