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
PREM19/1691 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems (HARM/ALARM air launched missiles)) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 1 1986 May 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1231 European policy (European Community budget; future of Europe) (Part 27) 1984 Aug 1 1984 Oct 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2887 Transport (Consultative paper on the Government's response to the Blennerhassett Committee's recommendations on drinking and driving: White Paper on road safety) 1979 Jul 26 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1784 Home Affairs (Prime Minister's seminar on crime prevention, January 1986) (Part 1) 1985 Aug 8 1986 Mar 20 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2636 Economic Policy (Covenanted charitable donations by close companies: taxation of charities; White Paper on Charities) (Part 1) 1985 Mar 22 1989 May 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1325 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 5) 1983 Jul 11 1984 Jan 26 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1968 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 11) 1986 Jul 1 1986 Jul 15 2016 Feb 19 3
PREM19/2772 Manpower​​​​​​​ (Special employment measures: future of the Employment Service; Training and Enterprise Councils; Youth Training Scheme (YTS) review) (Part 21) 1989 Jan 6 1989 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1922 Regional Policy (Review of regional policy: new structure for regional industrial incentives; territorial expenditure; the North/South issue) (Part 7) 1984 Oct 2 1986 Dec 22 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2798 Poland (UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance) (Part 10) 1988 Feb 8 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4218 Home Affairs (Legislation on privacy and right of reply: The Calcutt Report) (Part 1) 1989 Jan 10 1993 Jan 22 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/1293 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 1 1984 Mar 5 2014 Jan 3 3
PREM19/1908 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, April 1985: administrative arrangements) (part 2) 1985 Apr 4 1986 Jan 15 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2891 USA (UK/USA relations) (Part 6) 1987 Jul 2 1989 Mar 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1755 European Policy (European Institute of Public Administration at Maastricht) 1981 Nov 19 1986 Aug 18 2014 Dec 30

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