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 ascending Pages
PREM19/2899 Aerospace (Review of Scottish lowland airports policy) 1984 Jul 6 1990 Mar 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1790 Home Affairs (Interim payments for civil legal aid work: criminal legal aid remuneration) (Part 1) 1982 Dec 8 1986 Jul 15 2014 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
PREM19/2734 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
PREM19/287 Legal Procedure (Proposed amendment to Act of Settlement 1701) 1980 Jul 8 1980 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3790 Home Affairs (Report of inspectors appointed under section 432(2) of the Companies Act 1985 to investigate the affairs of House of Fraser Holdings plc)​​ (Part 6) 1990 Mar 2 1992 Jan 8 2030 Jan 1
PREM19/1666 Aerospace (Future and structure of British Airways: engines for British Airways Boeing 747-400s; UK/US air services; UK/Canada air services) (Part 5) 1986 Jan 1 1986 Dec 22 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4366 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Young) (Part 2) 1989 Mar 7 1993 Jun 25 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1535 India (Visits to UK by L K Jha, member of the Brandt Commission and adviser to Indira Gandhi: meetings with Prime Minister) 1983 Jun 4 1985 Mar 21 2015 Jul 16
PREM19/4242 India (Foreign policy: internal situation; re-election of Mrs Gandhi; aid to India; Indo-Soviet relations; Indo-Pakistan relations) (Part 2) 1990 Jun 1 1993 Apr 23 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2576 Zimbabwe (Possible purchase of UK military aircraft) 1987 Feb 18 1987 Jul 29 2016 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
PREM19/1633 Security (Soviet funding of National Union of Mineworkers (NUM): information from Sir Bernard Braine MP) 1984 Oct 10 1985 Mar 6 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4197 Guatemala (Internal situation/relations) (Part 1) 1985 Oct 27 1993 Jun 14 2018 Sep 6
PREM19/3002 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 5) 1990 Sep 5 1990 Nov 23 2016 Dec 30

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