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 classificationsort descending Pages
PREM19/2911 Austria (UK/Austrian relations: internal situation; Waldheim Report) 1981 Dec 24 1990 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1749 European policy (European Community Budget: UK Presidency; policy after European court judgment on illegally set budget; protection of VAT ceiling and UK abatement) (Part 32) 1986 Oct 1 1986 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2556 Transport (British Rail fares: industrial action by the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF); possible line closures; British Rail finances) 1986 Oct 9 1988 Sep 29 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1621 Security (Publication of 'British Intelligence and Covert Action' by Jonathan Bloch and Patrick Fitzgerald: security issues; Bloch's UK refugee residency status; protection of intelligence identities) 1983 Mar 9 1985 Oct 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3868 Oman (State visit of Sultan Qaboos of Oman, March 1982: other visits by the Sultan) 1989 Feb 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4501 USA (Visit of Donald Regan, US Treasury Secretary, on 8 December 1983: includes plan for a visit by his successor, Lloyd Bentsen) 1983 Nov 17 1993 Feb 4 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2727 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 20) 1987 Oct 2 1989 Feb 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4025 Canada (UK/Canadian relations: Canadian Constitution; British North America Acts) (Part 7) 1990 Aug 4 1993 Sep 8 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2088 Economic Policy (Strategy) (Part 27) 1985 Jan 8 1987 Jul 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2942 Economic Policy (Budget) (Part 19) 1989 Dec 6 1990 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4502 Vanuatu (UK/Vanuatu relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 29 1993 Apr 27 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2609 Cyprus (Internal situation: UK/Cyprus relations) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 4 1989 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2680 Foreign Policy (Allegations concerning war criminals: Simon Weisenthal Center; War Crimes Inquiry) (Part 1) 1986 Oct 22 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2027 Broadcasting (Prime Minister's seminar on broadcasting, 21 September 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Mar 5 1987 Sep 21 2016 Feb 19
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

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