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
PREM19/3867 Norway (Visits to the UK by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norwegian Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 10 1992 Nov 25 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2166 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 36) 1987 Apr 22 1987 Sep 30 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 252
PREM19/3205 USA ​​​​​​​(Economic Situation) (Part 4) 1987 Apr 27 1990 Jan 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3659 Downing Street (Organisation and function of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit; access to papers by members of the Policy Unit) (Part 2) 1987 Apr 27 1992 Jun 24 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2055 Defence (Arms control) (Part 12) 1987 May 1 1987 Jun 22 2016 Jul 21 4 Secret and Personal 281
PREM19/2462 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: report by Eric Sorensen; Phoenix initiative; development of Canary Wharf and extension of Docklands Light Railway) (Part 10) 1987 May 1 1987 Sep 22 2016 Jul 21 2 Confidential 262
PREM19/2120 Education (General policy on education and education expenditure: national curriculum; future of Inner London Education Authority (ILEA); financial delegation to schools; financial crisis at University College Cardiff) (Part 13) 1987 May 1 1987 Jul 14 2016 Jul 21 Confidential 331
PREM19/2540 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 8) 1987 May 5 1987 Oct 30 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/2316 Manpower (Special employment measures: Income Support for 16-18 year olds) (Part 16) 1987 May 5 1987 Aug 28 2016 Jul 21 Secret 162
PREM19/3635 Commonwealth (Reports by Commonwealth Secretary-General: activities of the Commonwealth Secretariat) (Part 2) 1987 May 5 1992 Jun 30 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2285 Japan (Anglo-Japanese relations) (Part 7) 1987 May 6 1988 Jun 30 2016 Nov 7 4 Secret 285
PREM19/2856 Social Services (Uprating of social security benefits) (Part 4) 1987 May 6 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3016 Government Machinery (Machinery of government changes: organisation at the centre; Whitehall reorganisation) (Part 7) 1987 May 8 1990 Jun 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2133 Elections (Election procedure) (Part 3) 1987 May 13 1988 Mar 31 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/3234 China ​​​​​​​(UK/Chinese relations)(Part 5) 1987 May 22 1991 Feb 28 Temporarily Retained by Department

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