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
PREM19/3174 Soviet Union (Human rights and the position of dissidents in the Soviet Union: policy towards the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 17 1990 May 26 2017 Jul 20 7 Top Secret 277
PREM19/2857 Social Services (Long-term strategy for social security operations) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 24 1989 Jun 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1743 Environmental Affairs (The refurbishment of Trafalgar Square) 1986 Jun 24 1986 Jun 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3477 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 25 1991 May 21 2017 Jul 20 Secret 290
PREM19/2016 Argentina (Falklands) (Part 41) 1986 Jun 26 1987 Jul 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2184 Germany (750th anniversary of Berlin in 1987) 1986 Jun 26 1987 May 22 2016 Jul 21 3 Secret 20
PREM19/2113 Education (Department of Education and Science (DES) draft circular 'Providing for Quality: the Pattern of Organisation to Age 19': proposed consultation) 1986 Jun 30 1986 Jul 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1968 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 11) 1986 Jul 1 1986 Jul 15 2016 Feb 19 3
PREM19/2356 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 11) 1986 Jul 1 1987 Feb 11 2016 Dec 30 Secret 329
PREM19/3299 Education (Training: Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI); city technology colleges) (Part 3) 1986 Jul 1 1991 Jan 7 2017 Jul 20 2 Confidential 185
PREM19/1695 Defence (Arms control) (Part 9) 1986 Jul 1 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret UK Eyes Only 427
PREM19/2028 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; Peacock Report on Financing the BBC; BBC proposal for a world television news service) (Part 3) 1986 Jul 1 1987 Feb 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/1815 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 21) 1986 Jul 2 1986 Oct 31 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1919 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, USA, November 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Jul 2 1986 Dec 8 2016 Feb 19 2 Secret 96
PREM19/2376 Parliament (House of Commons procedure: Select Committees) (Part 8) 1986 Jul 3 1987 Jan 28 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 355

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