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
PREM19/1477 Environmental Affairs (Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution: effects of acid rain; agriculture and conservation) (Part 3) 1984 Nov 2 1985 May 30 2014 Dec 30 1 Secret 503
PREM19/1517 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 18) 1985 May 7 1985 Jul 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 500
PREM19/1408 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald; Anglo-Irish Summits) (Part 7) 1983 Nov 1 1984 Nov 23 2014 Jan 3 3 Secret 495
PREM19/2031 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers; Broadcasting White Paper) (Part 6) 1988 Jan 4 1988 Sep 30 2016 Feb 19 Confidential 494
PREM19/3171 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK; release of Nelson Mandela) (Part 21) 1989 Nov 1 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20 10 Secret Cab One 493
PREM19/2868 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by President Mikhail Gorbachev, April 1989) (Part 3) 1989 Jan 3 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30 8 Secret 492
PREM19/3438 Memoirs (Policy on Ministerial memoirs: Sir Alan Walters' book 'Sterling in Danger'; 'Downing Street Cook - Recipes from the Thatcher Years') (Part 2) 1988 Sep 16 1991 Feb 6 2017 Jul 20 2 Secret 491
PREM19/2657 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; proposed White Paper on the Environment) (Part 11) 1989 Jun 5 1989 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30 3 Confidential 488
PREM19/1196 Economic policy (Privatisation) (Part 10) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Jul 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 485
PREM19/1967 South Africa (Internal situation; relations with UK) (Part 10) 1986 Jun 1 1986 Jun 30 2016 Feb 19 14 Secret UK Eyes A 484
PREM19/716 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 18) 1981 Dec 14 1982 Mar 10 2012 Dec 28 Secret 474
PREM19/2269 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 9) 1988 Jan 1 1988 Dec 31 2017 Jul 20 8 Top Secret 473
PREM19/3571 Trade (Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD): review of the status of the ECGD; privatisation of Insurance Services Group)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Dec 11 1990 Dec 27 2017 Jul 20 Confidenrtial 473
PREM19/1966 South Africa (Internal situation; relations with UK) (Part 9) 1986 Mar 3 1986 May 30 2016 Feb 19 7 Secret 468
PREM19/1201 Economic policy (International banking system) (Part 4) 1984 Mar 5 1984 Dec 31 2014 Jan 3 Secret 464

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