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.

 

Link to full file File name Beginssort ascending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2918 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 11) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3064 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 17) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2955 Education (General policy on education) (Part 24) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3018 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny Programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 33) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3000 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 3) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Mar 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3071 Manpower (Special employment measures: training policy; pilot schemes of training credits for young people) (Part 24) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3235 Civil Service ​​​​​​​(Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions)(Part 5) 1990 Mar 1 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3836 Japan (Visit to the UK by Japanese Prime Ministers, Toshiki Kaifu and Kiichi Miyazawa) (Part 3) 1990 Mar 1 1992 Jul 21 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3138 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Helsinki, August 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Oct 2 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3172 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK; policy on arms sales to South Africa) (Part 22) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Jun 29 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3429 Local Government ​​​​​​​(Relations between central and local government: local authority expenditure; Local Government Review; structure of local government)(Part 38) 1990 Mar 1 1991 Apr 24 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2967 Environmental Affairs (Environmental pollution: climate change; Environment White Paper) (Part 15) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Apr 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3199 Turkey (Prime Minister's visit to Turkey to attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign, April 1990) (Part 2) 1990 Feb 28 1990 Aug 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2999 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: policy towards German reunification) (Part 2B) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2980 European Policy (Special European Council meeting, Dublin, April 1990; European Council meeting, Dublin, June 1990) (Part 36A) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Jul 13 2016 Dec 30

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