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
PREM19/1836 Local Government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 30) 1986 Jun 6 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30 Secret 266
PREM19/2650 Education (Student loans: White Paper on Student Support) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 6 1989 Dec 22 2016 Dec 30 Secret 298
PREM19/2673 European Policy (European Convention on Human Rights) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 6 1989 Sep 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1859 National Health (Study of leukaemia in Scotland) 1986 Jun 9 1986 Jun 9 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2209 Government Machinery (The Strategy Group) 1986 Jun 9 1987 Jun 24 2016 Jul 21 Secret and Personal 198
PREM19/2882 Trade (Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD): review of the status of the ECGD) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 9 1989 Nov 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3015 Government Machinery (The Inland Revenue) 1986 Jun 9 1990 Jul 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1692 Defence (Procurement of Weapon Systems (HARM/ALARM air launched missiles): airborne early warning aircraft (British Aerospace Nimrod and Boeing E3A)) (Part 4) 1986 Jun 10 1986 Dec 22 2016 Jul 21 Secret 314
PREM19/3106 Parliament (Appointment of Parliamentary Private Secretaries) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 10 1990 Dec 31 2017 Jul 20 8 Confidential 430
PREM19/2145 European Policy (UK nomination for European City of Culture, 1990: Glasgow nominated) 1986 Jun 10 1986 Oct 8 2016 Nov 7 Confidential 16
PREM19/3665 Economic Policy (European Investment Bank (EIB): appointments of UK Vice-President and Director of Research; visit by the Chairman, November 1992) 1986 Jun 10 1992 Nov 27 2017 Dec 29 Confidential 21
PREM19/2748 Ireland​​​​​​​ (DeLorean sports car project) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 10 1992 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2224 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: increase in the prison population) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 12 1987 Oct 27 2016 Nov 7 2 Secret and Personal 292
PREM19/2741 Industrial Policy (Short Brothers Plc: corporate plan and privatisation prospects) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 13 1989 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3003 Germany (Internal situation in the Federal Republic of Germany) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 13 1990 Mar 2 2016 Dec 30

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