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
PREM19/4435 Science and Technology (Intellectual property and innovation: problems faced by private inventors; Intellectual Property Bill) (Part 34) 1986 Apr 2 1993 Dec 22 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3221 Bangladesh (UK/Bangladesh relations; aid to Bangladesh; internal situation) 1979 May 5 1991 Feb 18 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 286
PREM19/3815 Iraq (Exports to Iraq (Scott Inquiry)) (Part 4) 1990 Oct 18 1992 Nov 19 Retained under Sec 3.4 (reconsideration in 2021)
PREM19/3063 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 16) 1990 Jan 2 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30 Secret 336
PREM19/2328 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 18) 1988 Mar 1 1988 Dec 29 Review 2027 Retained under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1672 Afghanistan (Internal situation: Soviet military intervention; Western response to Soviet invasion) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 22 1985 Oct 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1331 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 10) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Jul 18 2014 Jan 3 Secret 317
PREM19/993 Economic policy (Taxation of savings; mortgage interest tax relief; taxation of husband and wife) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 14 1983 Dec 23 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 411
PREM19/658 Argentina (The Falkland Islands Service held in St Paul's Cathedral on 26 July 1982) 1982 Jul 2 1992 Jul 23 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 36
PREM19/3056 Italy (Anglo-Italian Summits) (Part 4) 1986 Nov 5 1990 Feb 23 2017 Jul 20 Confidential 245
PREM19/318 New Zealand (Visit to UK by Brian Talboys, Deputy Prime Minister, December 1979, May 1980, and October 1980: meetings with Prime Minister) 1979 Nov 22 1980 Oct 2 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 64
PREM19/3890 Prime Minister (Prime Minister John Major's meetings with Margaret Thatcher​​​​​​​) 1990 Dec 26 1992 Feb 5 2017 Dec 29 Secret 19
PREM19/2214 Histories (Histories of Special Operations Executive (SOE)) 1980 May 1 1988 Nov 24 2015 Dec 30 Secret and Personal 32
PREM19/2915 Brazil (Proposed visit to UK by President of Brazil, General Joao Figueiredo; visit of the President-elect, Fernando Collor de Mello, February 1990) 1981 Nov 9 1990 May 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2085 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 17) 1987 Jul 6 1987 Dec 8 2016 Jul 21 Secret 342

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