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
PREM19/1305 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 20) 1984 Apr 3 1984 May 31 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3037 India (Visit to the UK by Ramaswamy Venkataraman, President of India, April 1990) 1990 Feb 1 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1887 Portugal (UK/Portugal relations; internal situation; death of Dr Francisco de Sa Carneiro; Prime Minister's meeting with Dr Mario Soares, 14 February 1984)(Part 1) 1979 Jul 7 1986 May 2 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1888 Prime Minister (Forward speaking engagements)(Part 1) 1979 May 18 1986 Mar 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2781 National Health (John Corrie MP's Bill on Abortion (1979): David Alton's Abortion Bill (1988); abortion policy) 1979 Jun 5 1989 Feb 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3256 Defence ​​​​​​​(Review of home defence: civil and military home defence)(Part 3) 1985 Mar 14 1991 Mar 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1898 Prime Minister (Meeting with Ted Garrett MP and Nick Brown MP about Swan Hunter) 1986 Mar 20 1986 Mar 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3481 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Messages of congratulations from Heads of Government to John Major MP upon his appointment as Prime Minister) 1990 Nov 27 1991 Feb 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1399 Transport (Inquiry into Archway Road Scheme (North London); withdrawal of nominated inspector Sir Michael Giddings following harassment of him and his family) 1984 Feb 27 1984 Nov 19 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1748 European Policy (European Community Budget: HM Government options towards illegal Community budget for 1986) (Part 31) 1985 Dec 4 1986 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1271 Hungary (UK/Hungarian relations) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 24 1984 Jan 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1620 Security (Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ): changes in funding, status and staffing; unionisation) (Part 3) 1984 Mar 2 1985 Apr 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2980 European Policy (Special European Council meeting, Dublin, April 1990; European Council meeting, Dublin, June 1990) (Part 36A) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Jul 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3869 Oman Internal situation: UK/Oman relations (Part 3) 1989 Feb 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2724 Home Affairs (Acid house parties) 1989 Aug 22 1989 Dec 5 2016 Dec 30

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