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?sort descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3653 Denmark ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: UK/Denmark relations) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 26 1992 Nov 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1522 Home Affairs (National Heritage Fund: taxations arrangements; review of fiscal provisions) 1979 Aug 23 1985 Oct 24 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 111
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
PREM19/162 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 2) 1980 Jan 17 1980 Jan 25 2010 Dec 30 Secret 297
PREM19/1939 Science and Technology (Intellectual property rights and innovation; future of Patent Office; patents for pharmaceutical industry) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 2 1986 Mar 26 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3236 Civil Service ​​​​​​​(Pay and pensions: Passport Department industrial dispute)(Part 18) 1989 Feb 1 1991 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3837 JORDAN (Illness of King Hussein) (Part 1) 1984 Jan 3 1992 Oct 21 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2629 Economic Policy (International finance: indebtedness of various countries) (Part 7) 1987 Nov 9 1989 May 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1785 Home Affairs (Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the proposed take-over of House of Fraser by Lonrho) (Part 2) 1986 Jan 15 1986 Dec 18 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1106 Prime Minister (Arab League Delegation visit to London; inclusion of representative of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO); meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1983 Mar 2 1983 Mar 27 2013 Aug 1 Secret 176
PREM19/758 Foreign policy (Third United Nations Law of the Sea Conference; extension of the UK territorial sea) 1980 May 6 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Secret 322
PREM19/423 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 8) 1981 Jan 2 1981 Jun 10 2011 Dec 30 Secret 256
PREM19/4295 Manpower (Unemployment and vacancies figures) (Part 7) 1987 Apr 1 1993 Feb 18 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2355 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 15) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 31 2016 Jul 21 Secret 288
PREM19/3185 Soviet Union (Possible visit to the UK by President Gorbachev in 1991) 1990 Oct 25 1990 Oct 25 2016 Dec 30

Pages