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
PREM19/1855 National Health (Committee on Human Fertilisation and Embryology (chaired by Lady Warnock); medical ethics; human surrogacy; German conference on bioethics) (Part 1) 1982 Feb 10 1986 Apr 4 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2750 Japan (UK/Japanese relations: Nissan (UK) exports to Europe; UK-Japan 2000 Group) (Part 8) 1988 Jul 1 1989 Aug 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2118 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure; future of polytechnics) (Part 11) 1987 Jan 22 1987 Feb 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/4090 Economic Policy (Policy on small firms: Local Enterprise Agencies) (Part 7) 1987 Jul 8 1993 Dec 31 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3018 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 33) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1728 Education (Student loans: review of financial support for students) (Part 1) 1981 Mar 23 1986 May 19 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1857 National Health (Area Health Authority Chairmen: reappointment and remuneration) 1981 Apr 27 1986 Jan 28 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2104 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 37) 1987 Feb 5 1987 Jul 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2956 Education (General policy on education) (Part 25) 1990 Apr 2 1990 May 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3931 Saudi Arabia (Visits to the UK by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal)​​​​​​​(Part 16) 1982 Jun 7 1992 Aug 3 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4492 United Nations (Inauguration of World Food Day, 16 October 1981: includes correspondence on the appointment of the next Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation) 1981 Aug 28 1993 Oct 12 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2700 Government Buildings (Purchase of government accommodation in the Whitehall area) 1983 Jul 23 1989 Sep 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2044 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 3 1988 Feb 19 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1696 Defence (Defence sales) (Part 6) 1985 Nov 4 1986 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1566 Malaysia (UK/Malaysia relations: visit to UK by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, March 1983; meeting with Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Aug 28 1985 Jul 31 2014 Dec 30 4

Pages