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
PREM19/3227 Cabinet (Arrangements for Cabinet business) (Part 20) 1990 Sep 5 1991 Jan 31 2017 Jul 20 Secret 231
PREM19/1641 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 4) 1984 Oct 1 1985 Jun 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 358
PREM19/486 Immigration (The Nationality Bill) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 26 1981 Oct 29 2011 Dec 30 Secret 150
PREM19/356 Security (Leak of documents on defence expenditure to Press Association) 1980 Oct 23 1980 Dec 17 2010 Dec 30 Secret 84
PREM19/1045 Government machinery (Future of Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS); CPRS work programme for 1982; Prime Minister's dissatisfaction with CPRS; abolition of CPRS) 1981 Dec 24 1983 Jul 25 2013 Aug 1 1 Secret 238
PREM19/2945 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Houston, July 1990) (Part 30) 1989 Dec 21 1990 Aug 20 2017 Jul 20 6 Secret 414
PREM19/2125 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; Education Reform Bill; opting out of Local Education Authority (LEA) control in Scotland; position of National Union of Students (NUS); Christian education; admission to maintained schools;polytechnics; national curriculum issues; Higginson Report on future of 'A' levels) (Part 18) 1988 Apr 6 1988 May 26 2016 Jul 21 1 Secret 262
PREM19/3269 Economic Policy (Briefing for the Prime Minister by Sir Alan Walters) 1989 May 10 1991 Jan 15 2017 Jul 20 Secret 35
PREM19/106 Rhodesia (Situation in) (Part 1) 1979 Apr 30 1979 May 31 2009 Dec 30 Secret 321
PREM19/2590 Austria (Visits to the UK by Austrian Foreign Ministers: Erwin Lanc (November 1983) and Alois Mock (December 1989)) 1983 Sep 2 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 36
PREM19/1011 Education (Wider parental choice; education vouchers) 1982 Nov 5 1983 Nov 18 2013 Aug 1 Secret 205
PREM19/1355 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with Paul Volcker, Chairman of US Federal Reserve) 1981 Jan 27 1984 Dec 13 2014 Jan 3 Secret 83
PREM19/326 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 4) 1980 Feb 15 1980 Mar 31 2010 Dec 30 Secret 191
PREM19/2377 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 15) 1986 May 2 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 198
PREM19/3100 NATO (NATO Ministerial meetings) 1979 May 31 1990 May 30 2017 Jul 20 Secret 212

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