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 descending Pages
PREM19/3418 Kuwait (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 1) 1980 Oct 6 1991 Jun 28 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4200 Home Affairs (London taxi fares) 1979 Jun 1 1993 Mar 26 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1899 Prime Minister (Meeting with Terry Lewis MP about Walkden Workshops) 1986 Aug 18 1986 Sep 23 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1747 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): reform of CAP; Green Pound; agricultural land and rural employment) (Part 14) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2137 Energy (North Sea oil prices; petrol prices; world oil market) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 4 1987 Feb 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2980 European Policy (Special European Council meeting, Dublin, April 1990; European Council meeting, Dublin, June 1990) (Part 36A) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Jul 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3871 Pakistan (Internal situation: UK/Pakistan relations) (Part 2) 1987 Aug 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4927 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Mayors of London, 25 July 1983, 13 May 1992, 2 November 1993) (Part 1) 1983 Jul 22 1994 Nov 16 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2724 Home Affairs (Acid house parties) 1989 Aug 22 1989 Dec 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4017 Bulgaria (UK relations with Bulgaria: internal situation) (Part 1) 1981 Jun 18 1993 Nov 18 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1840 Manpower (Employment policy: employment measures; review of employment policies) (Part 14) 1986 May 2 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2937 Defence (Prime Ministers seminar on defence questions, Chequers, 30 September 1989) 1989 Jul 4 1990 Jan 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4613 Defence (US bases in the UK) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 18 1994 Dec 20 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1459 Economic policy (Policy towards privatisation: disposal of public sector assets; contracting out of public sector functions) (Part 11 1984 Aug 2 1985 Mar 27 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2613 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 11) 1988 Aug 1 1989 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20

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