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
PREM19/3367 Government Machinery ​​​​​​​(Forthcoming announcements and publications)(Part 5) 1989 Sep 1 1991 Jul 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2887 Transport (Consultative paper on the Government's response to the Blennerhassett Committee's recommendations on drinking and driving: White Paper on road safety) 1979 Jul 26 1989 Nov 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1684 Civil Service (Long term management and manpower policy: duties and responsibilities of civil servants; performance bonuses) (Part 19) 1986 May 2 1986 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2637 Economic Policy (The coinage. Note: With coins) 1980 Nov 20 1989 Sep 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1968 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 11) 1986 Jul 1 1986 Jul 15 2016 Feb 19 3
PREM19/3571 Trade ​​​​​​​(Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD): review of the status of the ECGD; privatisation of Insurance Services Group)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Dec 11 1990 Dec 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2772 Manpower​​​​​​​ (Special employment measures: future of the Employment Service; Training and Enterprise Councils; Youth Training Scheme (YTS) review) (Part 21) 1989 Jan 6 1989 Jul 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3046 Iraq (UK/Iraq relations) (Part 2) 1990 Apr 2 1990 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3797 Honduras (Visits to the UK by the Honduran Foreign Minister, Dr Paz Barnica: proposed visit of President Callejas​​​​​​​) 1983 Sep 21 1992 Jan 21 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2038 Civil Service (Contracts of employment; possible legislation to enable civil servants to be laid off without pay; Civil Service nationality rules; responsibility for discipline in the Civil Service) 1980 Jun 27 1987 Jul 7 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/3205 USA ​​​​​​​(Economic Situation) (Part 4) 1987 Apr 27 1990 Jan 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1777 Government Machinery (Possible transfer of responsibility for VAT Tribunals from Customs and Excise to the Lord Chancellor: dePartmental responsibility for tribunals) 1985 Apr 1 1986 Dec 4 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2798 Poland (UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance) (Part 10) 1988 Feb 8 1989 Aug 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3410 Italy ​​​​​​​(Visits by the Prime Minister to Rome: Anglo-Italian Summits in Italy)(Part 4) 1988 Mar 1 1991 Nov 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1908 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, April 1985: administrative arrangements) (part 2) 1985 Apr 4 1986 Jan 15 2016 Feb 19

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