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 ascending Pages
PREM19/2231 Hong Kong (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)) 1985 Aug 28 1987 Jul 21 Retained Closed for 40 years
PREM19/2394 Prime Minister (Mark Thatcher and the Omanis: other allegations against Mark Thatcher) 1984 Jan 1 1988 Nov 9 Retained Closed for 40 years
PREM19/605 Zimbabwe (Request from Bishop Muzorewa for financial help with his security and education costs) 1981 Nov 3 1981 Dec 18 2011 Dec 30 1 Cabinet two - Top Secret 13
PREM19/1721 Economic policy (The 1986 Budget) (Part 15) 1986 Feb 5 1986 Apr 24 2014 Dec 30 Budget Secret 354
PREM19/1455 Economic policy (The Budget, 1984 and 1985) (Part 13) 1984 Mar 15 1985 Mar 8 2014 Dec 30 Budget Secret 364
PREM19/4561 Afghanistan (UK/Afghanistan relations: internal situation) (Part 8) 1988 Apr 6 1994 Jun 15 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2277 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland: force levels) (Part 23) 1987 Nov 1 1988 Mar 31 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3043 Industrial Policy (Wages Councils: future) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 1 1990 Jan 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1889 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's weekly diary meeting) 1979 May 21 1986 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/2783 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: industrial energy policy; privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 16) 1989 Jan 5 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3416 Jordan (UK/Jordanian relations) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 16 1990 Nov 30 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/4209 Home Affairs (Report of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People: social security benefits and employment and training services for disabled people) (Part 2) 1990 Jul 1 1993 Jan 29 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1901 Prime Minister (Tam Dalyell's motion on conduct of Prime Minister) 1986 Jun 4 1986 Jun 5 2016 Feb 19
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

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