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 classification Pagessort ascending
PREM19/3059 Japan (Visits of Noboru Takeshita, Prime Minister of Japan (May 1988) and his successor Toshiki Kaifu (January 1990)) (Part 2) 1987 Dec 11 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1866 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity policy: British Gas privatisation; Gas Bill) (Part 12) 1985 Dec 1 1986 Sep 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2540 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 8) 1987 May 5 1987 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1745 European Policy (European Council meeting, The Hague, June 1986) (Part 25) 1985 Apr 23 1986 Jul 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4628 Energy (Gas and electricity) (Part 1) 1984 Aug 6 1994 Jun 5 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3038 Industrial Policy (Dispute between the National Graphical Association and the Stockport Messenger Group: print unions dispute at Wapping) 1983 Nov 26 1990 Feb 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2280 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 26) 1988 Oct 1 1988 Dec 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/4301 Ministers (Travel by Ministers and their families) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 1 1993 Jul 30 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/684 Defence (Special project) 1980 May 9 1982 Nov 29 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3072 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle East countries) (Part 4) 1984 Nov 8 1990 Aug 31 Retained under Sec 3.4 (reconsideration in 2027)
PREM19/2898 Aerospace (Radio equipment for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA): NATO air defence radar procurement) 1979 Nov 21 1990 Jul 20 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2072 Defence (Royal Navy deployments) 1980 Jan 18 1987 Dec 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1241 France (State visit to UK by President Mitterrand, October 1984) (Part 4) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Nov 2 Retained Retained
PREM19/2582 Aerospace (Air Combat Manoeuvring Installation in the North Sea) 1989 Apr 23 1989 Jun 6 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3521 Saudi Arabia ​​​​​​​(Visits of King Fahd) 1981 Sep 15 1991 May 7 Temporarily Retained by Department

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