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 namesort descending Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1699 Disasters (Ethiopian famine relief) 1984 Oct 25 1986 Jan 1 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3658 Disasters (Thames riverboat disaster: sinking of the Marchioness, 20 August 1989) 1989 Aug 20 1992 Jul 3 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3262 Disasters ​​​​​​​(Lockerbie bombing, 21 December 1988: Pan Am 747 air crash)(Part 2a) 1989 Dec 2 1991 Nov 15 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3264 Disasters ​​​​​​​(Piper Alpha oil platform explosion, 6 July 1988)(Part 1) 1988 Jul 7 1991 Mar 25 2017 Jul 20 Secret 131
PREM19/981 DISASTERS. Collapse of Norwegian oil rig 'Alexander Kielland' in North Sea: PM's message of condolence... 1980 Mar 28 1980 Aug 11 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 43
PREM19/3266 Dominica ​​​​​​​(Dominican general election, July 1980: Prime Minister's message to new Prime Minister of Dominica, Miss Eugenie Charles; visits of Miss Charles)(Part 1) 1980 Jul 1 1991 May 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2939 Downing Street (Functions of the Prime Minister's Office) 1987 Jun 2 1990 Mar 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3659 Downing Street (Organisation and function of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit; access to papers by members of the Policy Unit) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 27 1992 Jun 24 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3660 Downing Street (Physical security aspects of Downing Street) (Part 7) 1988 Apr 5 1992 Jul 2 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3661 Downing Street (Replacement of telephone switchboard: modernisation of telecommunications; telephone systems at No. 10) (Part 2) 1988 Apr 5 1992 Jul 2 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3662 Drugs (Drugs) (Part 6) 1990 May 9 1992 Oct 5 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2940 Drugs (Drugs) (Part 5) 1989 Dec 8 1990 Apr 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3267 Dubai ​​​​​​​(UK/Dubai relations; Prime Minister's call on Shaikh Rashid of Duba, June 1981) 1981 Jun 19 1986 Aug 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3268 East Timor ​​​​​​​(Situation in East Timor) 1982 Nov 5 1991 Nov 11 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2111 Economic Policy (Bank takeovers and mergers; takeover bids for Royal Bank of Scotland Group, 1981) 1981 Apr 8 1987 Jul 6 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 97

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