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
PREM19/2723 Home Affairs (Race relations: Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) draft Code of Practice; scrutiny of grants under section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966) (Part 1) 1980 May 14 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2724 Home Affairs (Acid house parties) 1989 Aug 22 1989 Dec 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2083 Economic Policy (Correspondence from and meetings with Sir Walter Salomon, private banker) (Part 2) 1987 Feb 19 1987 Apr 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3489 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meeting with Dr Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, 7 February 1991) 1990 Aug 11 1991 Feb 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/4021 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 4) 1990 Oct 19 1993 Nov 23 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
PREM19/1715 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 21) 1985 Apr 30 1986 May 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3660 Downing Street (Physical security aspects of Downing Street) (Part 7) 1988 Apr 5 1992 Jul 2 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3069 Manpower (Special employment measures: future of the Employment Service; training policy) (Part 22) 1989 Aug 1 1990 Jan 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2086 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 18) 1988 Jan 9 1988 Jun 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2937 Defence (Prime Ministers seminar on defence questions, Chequers, 30 September 1989) 1989 Jul 4 1990 Jan 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2229 Home Affairs (Mr Justice May's Inquiry into the UK Prison Service; Prison Service pay and dispute; appointment of a Prisons Inspectorate; prison population) 1979 Oct 4 1986 Apr 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3960 Trade (Merchant shipping: shipping cabotage; fiscal issues; defence needs) 1988 Jan 21 1992 Jul 9 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1242 France (Prime Minister's visits to France; meetings with President Mitterrand; Anglo-French Summits) (Part 3) 1982 Sep 21 1984 Apr 18 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3328 European Policy ​​​​​​​(Setting up of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development)(Part 2) 1990 Oct 4 1991 Apr 11 2017 Dec 29

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