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
PREM19/2864 South Africa (Visits to London by South African Finance Ministers: Senator Owen Horwood (October 1979) and Barend du Plessis (April 1989)) 1979 Jun 19 1989 Apr 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2191 Government Machinery (Access of the Comptroller and Auditor General to Cabinet papers and Treasury documents) 1987 Nov 5 1988 Feb 12 2016 Feb 19
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
PREM19/1774 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 21) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2622 Disasters (Railway accident at Clapham Junction, 12 December 1988) 1988 Dec 12 1989 Nov 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1957 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 3) 1982 Mar 18 1986 Oct 22 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3585 USA ​​​​​​​(UK/USA relations)​​​​​​​ (Part 8) 1990 Sep 3 1991 Oct 30 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2799 Poland (UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance) (Part 11) 1989 Sep 1 1989 Dec 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3825 Ireland (Prime Minister's visits to Northern Ireland) (Part 6) 1990 Oct 1 1992 Feb 6 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1303 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 18) 1983 Nov 4 1984 Jan 13 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3219 Australia ​​​​​​​(Call on the Prime Minister by Bill Hayden, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, May 1984; meeting with John Howard, Leader of the Australian Opposition, July 1988) 1981 Jan 19 1991 Aug 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3028 Home Affairs (The campaign against and the use of chemical herbicides, especially 2,4,5-T: pesticide policy) 1980 Jun 1 1990 Apr 3 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1519 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste) (Part 19 annex) 1985 Aug 1 1985 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1885 Parliament (Boundary Commission reviews of Parliamentary constituencies in UK)(Part 1) 1981 Feb 19 1986 Feb 20 2016 Jul 21 2
PREM19/2776 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Review; draft White Paper) (Part 19) 1989 Jan 23 1989 Feb 21 2016 Dec 30

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