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 descending File classification Pages
PREM19/3392 Immigration (Immigration Rules: asylum; immigration figures) (Part 5) 1990 Sep 1 1991 Nov 29 2017 Jul 20 2 Secret 360
PREM19/639 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 28) 1982 Jul 21 1982 Aug 31 2012 Dec 28 2 Secret 224
PREM19/1025 European policy (European Council meeting, Athens, December 1983) (Part 13) 1982 Oct 15 1983 Dec 8 2013 Aug 1 2 Secret 181
PREM19/3582 Turkey (UK/Turkish relations)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1987 Oct 9 1991 Nov 14 2017 Dec 29 2 Confidential 292
PREM19/2462 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: report by Eric Sorensen; Phoenix initiative; development of Canary Wharf and extension of Docklands Light Railway) (Part 10) 1987 May 1 1987 Sep 22 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 262
PREM19/2019 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza to discuss possible siting in UK of the Thyssen Collection) (Part 2) 1988 Jun 2 1988 Dec 23 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2018 Arts and Amenities (Prime Minister's meeting with Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza to discuss possible siting in UK of the Thyssen Collection) (Part 1) 1988 Feb 27 1988 May 30 2016 Dec 30 2 Confidential 283
PREM19/3662 Drugs (Drugs) (Part 6) 1990 May 9 1992 Oct 5 2017 Dec 29 2 Secret 150
PREM19/1394 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; visit to UK by Mikhail Gorbachev, member of Politburo, December 1984; meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 4 1984 Dec 22 2014 Jan 3 2 Top Secret 411
PREM19/3372 Government Machinery (Review of Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA): Government Telecommunications Service) 1984 Jan 1 1991 Jan 7 2017 Jul 20 2 Confidential 368
PREM19/1850 Memorials (WPC Yvonne Fletcher memorial) 1984 May 1 1985 Feb 13 2015 Dec 30 2
PREM19/2430 Prime Minister (Visits to government departments) (Part 3) 1980 Jan 15 1982 Nov 25 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 248
PREM19/1186 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 4) 1984 Mar 2 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 2 Confidential 454
PREM19/3438 Memoirs (Policy on Ministerial memoirs: Sir Alan Walters' book 'Sterling in Danger'; 'Downing Street Cook - Recipes from the Thatcher Years') (Part 2) 1988 Sep 16 1991 Feb 6 2017 Jul 20 2 Secret 491
PREM19/3415 Jordan (Visits by Crown Prince Hassan) 1983 Jul 1 1991 Mar 1 2017 Jul 20 2 Secret 56

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