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
PREM19/3970 United Nations (International Year of the Child 1979: World Summit for Children, September 1990) 1979 May 25 1992 Feb 14 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3334 Foreign Policy ​​​​​​​(Relations between UK, France and Federal Republic of Germany) 1987 Apr 3 1991 Feb 19 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1239 Foreign policy (Seminars on foreign policy at Chequers, October 1984) 1984 Jun 1 1984 Oct 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/2669 European Policy (European Council meeting, Strasbourg, December 1989) (Part 36) 1989 Dec 12 1989 Dec 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3540 Social Services ​​​​​​​(Assistance with fuel: severe winter payments)​​​​​​​ (Part 2) 1986 Mar 1 1991 Jun 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1679 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 2) 1982 Oct 6 1986 Jan 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3119 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with John Broome, 7 February 1990: proposed development of Battersea Power Station) 1990 Feb 2 1990 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3769 Gibraltar (Policy towards Gibraltar) (Part 6) 1986 Dec 3 1992 Mar 16 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3143 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to the Conference on the Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) Summit in Paris, November 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Oct 17 1990 Nov 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3383 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Registration of children's homes) 1979 Jun 7 1991 Jun 4 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4314 National Health (Industrial action in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS workers' pay (except nurses)) (Part 4) 1990 Feb 7 1993 Dec 10 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2022 Bermuda (UK/Bermuda relations; meetings with John Swan, Premier of Bermuda) (Part 1) 1982 May 21 1987 Jun 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2858 Somalia (Visit to the UK by Major-General Mohamed Siad Barre, President of Somalia (June 1988); visit by Mohamed Ali Samatar, Prime Minister of Somalia (January 1989)) 1982 Mar 4 1989 Apr 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1772 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; White Paper on deregulation) (Part 20) 1985 Dec 1 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2617 Defence (Deployment of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe) (Part 6) 1989 Apr 3 1989 May 28 2016 Dec 30

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