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 Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/1840 Manpower (Employment policy: employment measures; review of employment policies) (Part 14) 1986 May 2 1986 Oct 29 2014 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
PREM19/1723 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: biased teaching and political indoctrination in schools and colleges; University funding) (Part 7) 1986 May 6 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 387
PREM19/1916 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to France for Anglo-French Summit, Paris, November 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 May 7 1986 Nov 24 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2271 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 16) 1986 May 8 1987 Feb 1 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2013 Afghanistan (Internal situation) (Part 7) 1986 May 8 1988 Mar 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2079 Economic Policy (Budget) (Part 16) 1986 May 12 1987 Sep 4 2016 Jul 21 Secret 226
PREM19/4532 Civil Service (Introduction of new technology into the Civil Service: Project Gemstone; Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in government departments) (Part 3) 1986 May 16 1992 Jul 26 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1848 Memorials (Lord Shinwell's memorial service) 1986 May 21 1986 Jun 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1933 Science and Technology (Prime Minister's meeting with Sir George Porter, President of the Royal Society) 1986 May 22 1986 Aug 5 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2409 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with James Prior MP and Sir Peter Tapsell MP about East Coast sea defences, 1 July 1986. Note:Â With maps) 1986 May 30 1988 Jul 29 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 77
PREM19/2568 USA (UK/USA relations) 1986 Jun 1 1987 Jun 26 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1967 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 10. Orderable at item level) 1986 Jun 1 1986 Jun 30 2016 Feb 19 6
PREM19/3184 Soviet Union (Visits to the UK by Eduard Shevardnadze, Soviet Foreign Minister, July 1986 and December 1989) 1986 Jun 2 1990 Jan 3 2016 Dec 30 Secret 87
PREM19/2134 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; the Sizewell Report) (Part 10) 1986 Jun 2 1987 Jan 26 2016 Jul 21

Pages

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90