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.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classificationsort descending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3351 Germany ​​​​​​​(Anglo-German relations)(Part 6) 1990 Oct 15 1991 Jul 9 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1443 Defence (Arms control) (Part 6B) 1985 Jan 4 1985 Feb 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2645 Education (General policy on education) (Part 22) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Dec 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1983 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Mar 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3563 Spain ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: UK/Spain relations)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1986 Mar 3 1991 Nov 7 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2734 India​​​​​​​ (Visits to the UK by Vice-Presidents of India, Mohammad Hidayatullah (July 1983) and Shankar Dayal Sharma (November 1989)) 1983 Jun 18 1989 Jul 8 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3067 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 20) 1990 Jul 2 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3788 Home Affairs (Capital punishment: sentencing policy; Criminal Justice Bill)​​​​​​​ (Part 5) 1990 Nov 7 1992 May 19 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1321 National health (Future of optical services; end of opticians' monopoly on sale of spectacles) 1983 Apr 15 1984 Nov 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3194 Transport ​​​​​​​(New format for vehicle registration marks after July 1983: sale of vehicle registration numbers) 1982 Feb 4 1990 Feb 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1989 Transport (Railway policy: British Rail pay; industrial action by NUR and ASLEF; possible line closures; British Rail finances) (Part 8) 1984 Jan 20 1986 Jul 31 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2818 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Germany, April 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Feb 24 1989 May 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3395 Industrial Policy ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with Confederation of British Industry (CBI): correspondence on the Government's economic strategy)(Part 5) 1985 Jun 1 1991 Jul 24 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1760 France (Prime Minister's meeting with French Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 4 1986 Oct 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1915 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Italy for Anglo-Italian Summit, Florence, March 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 May 9 1986 Apr 28 2016 Feb 19

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