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 descending
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
PREM19/2491 Security (Terrorist activity and extremism in Great Britain) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 3 1987 Sep 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1362 Prime Minister tours abroad (G7 Summit - London; 40th anniversary of D-Day: administrative arrangements) (Part 2) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Oct 2 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3936 Security (Intelligence Agencies (MI5 and MI6): meetings, visits, appointments)(Part 2) 1989 Feb 14 1992 Dec 21 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2971 Environmental Affairs (World Commission on Environment and Development: Bergen Conference 'Action for a Common Future', May 1990) 1988 Jul 5 1990 Feb 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1623 Security (Security of Buckingham Palace grounds: incident on 9 July 1982; review of law of trespass) 1981 Aug 20 1985 May 9 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/4090 Economic Policy (Policy on small firms: Local Enterprise Agencies) (Part 7) 1987 Jul 8 1993 Dec 31 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3456 Middle East ​​​​​​​(Conclusions of the Ad Hoc Group on the Gulf (AHGG)) 1990 Nov 5 1991 Feb 14 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2790 New Zealand (Visits to the UK of New Zealand Leaders of the Opposition: David Lange and Jim Bolger) 1984 Jan 9 1989 Aug 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2814 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Frankfurt for the Anglo-German Summit, February 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 Dec 19 1989 Mar 13 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2647 Education (The Open College) 1987 Aug 21 1989 Mar 6 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/359 Security (Intelligence liaison) 1980 Jul 28 1980 Aug 4 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2507 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 8) 1987 Jul 2 1987 Sep 22 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1378 Security (Leakage of NATO Alliance documents to Soviet Union by official in Belgian Foreign Ministry) 1984 Aug 3 1984 Aug 6 2014 Jan 3

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