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
PREM19/2227 Home Affairs (Behaviour of British football fans abroad: football hooliganism) (Part 6) 1986 Sep 25 1988 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 69
PREM19/4847 Nauru (Internal situation: Nauru/UK relations) (Part 1) 1986 Sep 26 1994 Jan 12 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3651 Defence (Prime Minister's meeting with Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, October 1986: memorandum on 'The Defence of Europe in the Nuclear Age') 1986 Sep 26 1987 Jan 20 2017 Dec 29 Top Secret 45
PREM19/2455 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union, March-April 1987: administrative arrangements) (Part 1) 1986 Sep 29 1987 Mar 27 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 310
PREM19/2519 Social Services (Review of social security benefits: Social Fund) (Part 5) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Sep 29 2016 Jul 21 Secret 252
PREM19/1749 European policy (European Community Budget: UK Presidency; policy after European court judgment on illegally set budget; protection of VAT ceiling and UK abatement) (Part 32) 1986 Oct 1 1986 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2103 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 36) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Jan 16 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2084 Economic Policy (Domestic monetary policy) (Part 16) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Jun 23 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1725 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: city technology colleges; Education Bill; academic tenure; education reform; implications of removing responsibility for education from Local Education Authorities (LEAs); future of polytechnics) (Part 9) 1986 Oct 1 1986 Oct 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2094 Economic Policy (Government response to the Roskill Report on Fraud Trials: the Stock Exchange; the 'Big Bang'; insider dealing; investigation of Guinness plc; regulation in the City; review of the Takeover Panel) (Part 4) 1986 Oct 1 1987 May 12 2018 Aug 3
PREM19/2094 Economic Policy (Government response to the Roskill Report on Fraud Trials: insider dealing; Take-over Panel review) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 1 1987 May 12 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/4301 Ministers (Travel by Ministers and their families) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 1 1993 Jul 30 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2333 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS)) (Part 7) 1986 Oct 1 1987 Jan 30 2016 Jul 21 Secret 140
PREM19/2520 Social Services (Review of social security benefits: Income Support; Pensions Ombudsdman) (Part 6) 1986 Oct 2 1990 Feb 27 2016 Jul 21 2 Secret 397
PREM19/2353 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity pricing policy: British Gas privatisation; privatisation of the electricity supply industry) (Part 13) 1986 Oct 2 1987 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 Secret 222

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