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
PREM19/3891 Prime Minister (Briefing for new Prime Minister and spouse) 1990 Nov 1 1992 Feb 5 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3308 European Policy ​​​​​​​(European Community Budget: developments in the European Community)(Part 48) 1990 Nov 1 1991 Feb 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3437 Manpower ​​​​​​​(Special employment measures: measures to tackle rising unemployment; Employment Training and special needs; youth training)(Part 25) 1990 Nov 1 1991 Sep 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3528 Security ​​​​​​​(Irish terrorist activity in Great Britain: other terrorist activity in Great Britain)​​​​​​​ (Part 7) 1990 Nov 1 1991 Oct 17 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/3086 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 33) 1990 Nov 1 1990 Nov 17 2017 Jul 20 Top Secret - Cab One 375
PREM19/3422 Local Government ​​​​​​​(The future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge)(Part 21) 1990 Nov 1 1991 Dec 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3185 Soviet Union (Possible visit to the UK by President Gorbachev in 1991) 1990 Oct 25 1990 Oct 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3085 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 32) 1990 Oct 22 1990 Oct 31 2017 Jul 20 11 Top Secret - Cab One 241
PREM19/4021 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 4) 1990 Oct 19 1993 Nov 23 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3815 Iraq (Exports to Iraq (Scott Inquiry)) (Part 4) 1990 Oct 18 1992 Nov 19 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3143 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to the Conference on the Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) Summit in Paris, November 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Oct 17 1990 Nov 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3351 Germany ​​​​​​​(Anglo-German relations)(Part 6) 1990 Oct 15 1991 Jul 9 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3968 Treasury (Secret Vote cash limits: Intelligence Agencies estimates) 1990 Oct 10 1992 Dec 1 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/3084 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 31) 1990 Oct 9 1990 Oct 21 2017 Jul 20 Top Secret - Cab One 324
PREM19/2978 European Policy (Proposal for a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean) 1990 Oct 8 1990 Oct 19 2016 Dec 30

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