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 descending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1125 Royal family (Prince of Wales' article, 'Help for Self-Help', for publication in The Economist) 1983 Mar 11 1983 Mar 18 Closed until 2024-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/292 Local Government (Ministerial responsibility for the Welsh rate support grant; administration of unitary grant in Wales) 1979 May 17 1980 Sep 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 16
PREM19/2577 Prime Minister (Personal correspondence with Princess Margaret) 1980 Jan 9 1980 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1765 Germany (Prime Minister's meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl) (Part 15) 1983 Nov 11 1986 May 28 2015 Dec 30 Secret 276
PREM19/1422 Broadcasting (Television licence fees: finances of BBC; pay in the BBC; review of external services) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 6 1985 Mar 28 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 263
PREM19/1024 European policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1982: briefing papers) (Part 12A) 1982 Nov 16 1982 Dec 2 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 279
PREM19/687 Defence (Defence budget) (Part 7) 1981 Jul 2 1982 Feb 12 2012 Dec 28 Secret 219
PREM19/3866 Netherlands Visits to the UK by Ruud Lubbers, Dutch Prime Minister (Part 2) 1986 Sep 11 1992 Dec 23 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2291 Legal Procedure (Jury vetting) 1979 Sep 20 1985 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30 Secret 27
PREM19/3001 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 4) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Aug 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2396 Prime Minister (Cementation contract: Mark Thatcher and the Omanis) (Part 2) 1984 Jan 15 1988 Mar 19 Retained Closed for 65 years
PREM19/1685 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: pay dispute; review of early retirement arrangements) (Part 15) 1985 Apr 7 1986 May 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1342 Portugal (Visits to UK by Prime Minister Dr Sa Carneiro (May 1980), Vice Prime Minister Professor Freitas do Amaral (November 1982) and Prime Minister Dr Mario Soares (November 1984); meetings with Prime Minister) 1980 Mar 17 1984 Dec 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/132 Zambia (Policy) 1979 Jul 13 1979 Jul 23 Closed
PREM19/3237 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Harare, Zimbabwe, October 1991)(Part 17) 1990 Jun 7 1991 Oct 9 2017 Jul 20

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