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 classification Pagessort ascending
PREM19/2727 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 20) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Feb 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1845 Defence (Defence Budget) (Part 11) 1984 Apr 16 1985 May 21 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2939 Downing Street (Functions of the Prime Minister's Office) 1987 Jun 2 1990 Mar 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1911 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to South Korea and to Japan for Tokyo Economic Summit, May 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Dec 4 1986 Jul 14 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/2579 Economic Policy (Inquiry into Barlow Clowes Group) 1988 Jun 13 1988 Sep 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1766 Gibraltar (Policy towards Gibraltar: discussions with Spanish under Lisbon and Brussels Agreements) (Part 5) 1984 Apr 6 1986 Oct 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4517 Zambia (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 2) 1987 Sep 1 1993 Jan 22 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2397 Prime Minister (Request by Electronic Data Systems to employ Mark Thatcher) 1987 Feb 1 1987 Feb 23 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1686 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring: report by Sir Geoffrey Wardale on fraud in the PSA) (Part 1) 1982 Jul 22 1986 Aug 5 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2399 Prime Minister (Proposal for a Margaret Thatcher Chair of International Relations) 1987 Oct 12 1988 Jun 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1687 Civil Service (Civil servants' outside interests: acceptance of non-executive directorships; possible publication of essay by Michael Quinlan on the ethics of nuclear deterrence) 1984 Jan 31 1986 Aug 5 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4818 Luxembourg (UK/Luxembourg relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 1 1994 Oct 6 2019 Feb 6
PREM19/3981 USA (Visit to the UK by George Shultz, US Secretary of State) (Part 2) 1987 Dec 1 1992 May 25 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2229 Home Affairs (Mr Justice May's Inquiry into the UK Prison Service; Prison Service pay and dispute; appointment of a Prisons Inspectorate; prison population) 1979 Oct 4 1986 Apr 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2947 Economic Policy (Taxation of individuals, including tax reform) (Part 4) 1987 Jul 6 1990 Mar 19 2016 Dec 30

Pages