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 classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1426 China (Visit to UK by Chinese Prime Minister, Zhao Ziyang, June 1985: meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1982 Jul 19 1985 Jun 21 2014 Dec 30 Secret 285
PREM19/2565 USA (Internal political situation: 1988 Presidential election campaign) (Part 2) 1985 Jan 3 1988 Oct 31 2016 Nov 7 3 Secret 299
PREM19/195 Economic policy (Possible changes in the taxation of bank profits) 1979 Nov 14 1980 Mar 20 2010 Dec 30 Secret 61
PREM19/541 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 4) 1981 Jul 22 1981 Nov 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 284
PREM19/2362 Nationalised Industries (Steel Industry: British Steel Corporation (BSC) privatisation) (Part 15) 1987 Oct 1 1988 Nov 23 2016 Jul 21 Secret 240
PREM19/1651 Transport (London Underground dispute, June 1979: reactivation of Civil Contingencies Unit; arbitration; London Transport pay; threatened London Underground and bus strikes) 1979 May 31 1985 May 20 2014 Dec 30 Secret 122
PREM19/416 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 6) 1981 May 18 1981 Jun 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 227
PREM19/635 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 24) 1982 Jun 12 1982 Jun 16 2012 Dec 28 Secret 202
PREM19/1055 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 6) 1983 Apr 20 1983 Jun 30 2013 Aug 1 7 Secret 268
PREM19/163 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 25 1980 Oct 16 2010 Dec 30 Secret 248
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
PREM19/2322 Mauritius (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth, February 1988: meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1988 Feb 5 1988 Sep 5 2016 Jul 21 2 Secret 40
PREM19/1617 Royal Family (Queen's visit to army units in Germany, May 1984: possible threat from Irish terrorism) 1984 May 16 1984 May 21 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 5
PREM19/33 Economic policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1979 Jul 25 2009-12-30 Secret 208
PREM19/806 Industrial policy (Industrial action in the ports; future of Port of London Authority (PLA) and Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC)) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 18 1982 May 5 2012 Dec 28 Secret 124

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