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 Begins Endssort descending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2660 Environmental Affairs (Parliament Square improvements) (Part 12) 1987 Jul 15 1989 May 22 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 55
PREM19/2266 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 6) 1987 Jul 20 1987 Aug 10 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2411 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Lord Carrington, Lord Windlesham and Jacob Rothschild to discuss museum buildings, 23 October 1987) 1987 Jul 21 1987 Oct 23 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 28
PREM19/2903 Agriculture (Nutrition labelling of food: additives in food; environmental labelling of consumer products) 1987 Jul 23 1990 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2892 USA (Prime Minister's visits to Washington, November 1988 and November 1989) (Part 8) 1987 Jul 24 1989 Nov 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2808 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visits to government departments: consideration of regional visits) (Part 4) 1987 Jul 24 1989 Sep 9 2016 Dec 30 1 Confidential 39
PREM19/2567 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1987) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 24 1987 Nov 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2732 Hungary (Visits to the UK by Prime Ministers Karoly Grosz, (May 1988) and Miklos Nemeth (December 1989)) 1987 Jul 28 1989 Dec 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2473 Royal Family (The Prince of Wales' Special Projects Unit) 1987 Jul 29 1987 Sep 1 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/2364 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 30 1988 Nov 14 2016 Jul 21 Secret 278
PREM19/2365 NATO (NATO Summits) (Part 2) 1987 Jul 30 1988 Nov 14 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2909 Arts and Amenities (Policy towards the arts: private sponsorship of the arts; Wilding Report 'Supporting the Arts') (Part 3) 1987 Jul 31 1990 Apr 10 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3871 Pakistan (Internal situation: UK/Pakistan relations) (Part 2) 1987 Aug 1 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2531 Soviet Union (Policy towards the Soviet Union) (Part 1) 1987 Aug 1 1987 Sep 8 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2254 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 5) 1987 Aug 3 1988 Dec 15 2016 Jul 21 Secret 245

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