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?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2543 Soviet Union (Relations between the Soviet Union and India) 1987 Jun 10 1987 Jun 17 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1748 European Policy (European Community Budget: HM Government options towards illegal Community budget for 1986) (Part 31) 1985 Dec 4 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/55 European policy (European Community budget) (Part 3) 1979 Oct 25 1979 Nov 30 2009 Dec 30 Secret 329
PREM19/732 Education (Secondary school education; legislation to remove the compulsion for comprehensive education; the Education Bill; local authority arrangements for school curriculum) (Part 1) 1979 May 14 1981 Oct 14 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 236
PREM19/3815 Iraq Exports to Iraq (Scott Inquiry) (Part 4) 1990 Oct 18 1992 Nov 19 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2311 Local Government (Water industry: structural change; privatisation of the water authorities) (Part 4) 1979 Jan 1 1988 Jan 1 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 264
PREM19/3040 Industrial Policy (Review of the arrangements for consultation with the construction industry: private investment in construction) 1980 Feb 14 1990 Oct 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2289 Jordan (Visits to UK by King Hussein: records of meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 4) 1986 Sep 1 1988 Dec 6 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1666 Aerospace (Future and structure of British Airways: engines for British Airways Boeing 747-400s; UK/US air services; UK/Canada air services) (Part 5) 1986 Jan 1 1986 Dec 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1325 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 5) 1983 Jul 11 1984 Jan 26 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/987 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 25) 1983 Nov 1 1983 Nov 30 2013 Aug 1 Secret 312
PREM19/652 Argentina (Falklands: sensitive briefing) (Part 10) 1982 Jun 26 1982 Sep 28 2012 Dec 28 Top Secret UK Eyes A 171
PREM19/3216 Agriculture ​​​​​​​(Agriculture expenditure: report on the review of agricultural training)(Part 3) 1987 Nov 20 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/312 Nationalised Industries (British Steel Corporation (BSC); BSC finances and future shape under new chairman; problems of private sector steel firms) (Part 7) 1980 Sep 12 1980 Nov 27 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/3075 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 22) 1990 Aug 7 1990 Aug 12 Retained under Section 3.4

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