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 ascending Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3558 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations: internal situation; August 1991 coup)(Part 21) 1991 Aug 1 1991 Aug 23 2017 Dec 29 Secret 513
PREM19/3890 Prime Minister (Prime Minister John Major's meetings with Margaret Thatcher​​​​​​​) 1990 Dec 26 1992 Feb 5 2017 Dec 29 Secret 19
PREM19/4055 Defence (Nuclear test veterans and workers) (Part 1) 1990 Dec 14 1993 Dec 8 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3481 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Messages of congratulations from Heads of Government to John Major MP upon his appointment as Prime Minister) 1990 Nov 27 1991 Feb 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3507 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, December 1990; administrative arrangements) 1990 Nov 27 1990 Dec 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3213 Prime Minister (Resignation of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister) 1990 Nov 20 1991 Nov 11 2016 Dec 30 2 Secret 215
PREM19/3439 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 34) 1990 Nov 18 1990 Dec 6 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3246 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(Commonwealth Security Conference, London, June 1991) 1990 Nov 13 1991 Jan 14 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3294 Education ​​​​​​​(General policy on education)(Part 27) 1990 Nov 13 1991 Mar 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3133 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to European Council meeting in Rome, December 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Nov 9 1990 Dec 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3321 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Council meeting, Rome, December 1990)(Part 38) 1990 Nov 8 1991 Apr 11 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3325 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union)(Part 9) 1990 Nov 8 1991 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3788 Home Affairs (Capital punishment: sentencing policy; Criminal Justice Bill)​​​​​​​ (Part 5) 1990 Nov 7 1992 May 19 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3648 Defence (UK strategic nuclear deterrent: nuclear test programme)​​​​​​​ (Part 10) 1990 Nov 6 1992 May 12 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3456 Middle East ​​​​​​​(Conclusions of the Ad Hoc Group on the Gulf (AHGG)) 1990 Nov 5 1991 Feb 14 Temporarily Retained by Department

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