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?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/2975 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 45) 1990 Mar 2 1990 Apr 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4502 Vanuatu (UK/Vanuatu relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1980 Jul 29 1993 Apr 27 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2138 Energy (Future of British National Oil Corporation (BNOC): proposed sale of British Petroleum (BP) assets; Kuwaiti holding in BP) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 24 1988 Dec 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/3300 Education (Payments to school and college governors: college governing bodies) 1980 Feb 13 1991 May 14 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 14
PREM19/3930 Saudi Arabia (Calls on the Prime Minister by the Saudi Ambassador) 1983 Jun 4 1992 Sep 17 2017 Dec 29 Secret 54
PREM19/2254 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 5) 1987 Aug 3 1988 Dec 15 2016 Jul 21 Secret 245
PREM19/1627 Security (Sinking of Argentine warship General Belgrano in 1982: report by House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 1 1985 Oct 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/949 Agriculture (Role of Home Grown Cereals Authority; appointment of Chairman) 1983 Aug 16 1983 Nov 11 2013 Aug 1 Unclassified 17
PREM19/273 Iran (Internal situation: relations with USA and UK following hostage taking at US embassy, Tehran; sanctions) (Part 3) 1979 Dec 23 1980 Jan 8 2010 Dec 30 Secret 265
PREM19/2800 Police (Police pay) (Part 2) 1985 Mar 1 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4093 Economic Policy (Covenanted charitable donations by close companies: taxation of charities) (Part 2) 1989 Dec 21 1993 Oct 19 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1542 Industrial policy (Industrial relations law) (Part 11) 1984 Apr 5 1985 Jan 14 2014 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/1206 Economic policy (G7 Summit - London) (Part 14) 1983 Jan 28 1984 Feb 29 2014 Jan 3 Secret 327
PREM19/2158 European Policy (European Council meeting, Copenhagen, December 1987: briefing papers) (Part 27A) 1987 Dec 1 1987 Dec 5 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 309
PREM19/869 Parliament (MPs' pay and pensions; Top Salaries Review Body report on Parliamentary pay; report by Select Committee) (Part 4) 1980 Dec 3 1982 Jul 1 2012 Dec 28 Secret 165

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