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
PREM19/2960 Education (Tuition fees for overseas students) 1980 Jun 4 1990 Aug 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3929 Saudi Arabia (UK/Saudi relations: internal situation) (Part 5) 1990 Apr 6 1992 Jun 29 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/4418 Royal Family (Prince Charles' interest in youth unemployment: The Prince's Trust; The Prince's Youth Business Trust) (Part 1) 1981 Oct 12 1993 Apr 30 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1823 Jordan (Visits to the UK by King Hussein) (Part 3) 1984 Dec 3 1986 Aug 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2702 Government Machinery (Review of administrative forms) (Part 2) 1986 Nov 3 1989 Dec 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4873 Parliament (The Speaker's overseas travel plans) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 31 1994 Mar 24 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2067 Defence (Military communications satellite) 1981 Oct 1 1988 Sep 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2900 Aerospace (The fourth and fifth terminals for Heathrow Airport: developments at Heathrow) 1979 Dec 3 1990 Jan 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2644 Education (General policy on education) (Part 21) 1989 Apr 3 1989 Jun 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1984 Trade (Commodity policy: International Tin Agreement and International Tin Council; implications of difficulties in tin market for Cornish tin mines) (Part 1) 1985 Jan 29 1986 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3555 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(UK/Soviet relations: internal situation)​​​​​​​ (Part 18) 1990 Sep 3 1990 Nov 30 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2731 Housing​​​​​​​ (Reform of housing benefits) 1980 Jun 24 1989 May 4 2017 Jul 20

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