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 ascending Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3577 Transport ​​​​​​​(Proposed increase in the driving test fee and changes to the driving test procedure: photographs on driving licences) 1979 Dec 1 1991 Dec 16 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2778 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): community care) (Part 20) 1989 Mar 2 1989 Apr 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2317 Manpower (Special employment measures: the Employment Service) (Part 17) 1987 Sep 1 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21 1
PREM19/3804 Industrial Policy (British Technology Group (BTG): compendium; privatisation) (Part 3) 1989 Feb 1 1992 Mar 10 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2032 Cambodia (Internal situation: derecognition of Pol Pot regime; Prince Sihanouk) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 16 1988 Nov 10 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3210 USA ​​​​​​​(UK/USA relations)(Part 7) 1989 May 2 1990 Aug 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3045 Iraq (UK/Iraq relations) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 5 1990 Mar 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1773 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; Efficiency Unit report on 'The Use of Value for Money Targets 1985-86', volume II) 1986 Apr 1 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2787 NATO (NATO's 30th, 35th and 40th anniversaries) 1979 May 10 1989 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2161 European Policy (European Council meeting, Rhodes, December 1988) (Part 30) 1988 Oct 24 1988 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2868 Soviet Union (Visit to the UK by President Mikhail Gorbachev, April 1984) (Part 3) 1989 Jan 3 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3415 Jordan ​​​​​​​(Visits by Crown Prince Hassan) 1983 Jul 1 1991 Mar 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1902 Prime Minister (Meeting with Neville Trotter MP about Swan Hunter shipyard) 1986 Feb 27 1986 Mar 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1302 Libya (Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau, 17 April 1984; severance of diplomatic relations) (Part 3A) 1984 May 1 1984 May 25 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3610 Arts and Amenities (​​​​​​​Policy towards the arts: private sponsorship of the arts) (Part 4) 1990 May 1 1992 Dec 22 2017 Dec 29

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