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.

 

File name Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort descending File classification Pages
PREM19/2028 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; Peacock Report on Financing the BBC; BBC proposal for a world television news service) (Part 3) 1986 Jul 1 1987 Feb 21 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2696 Germany (Internal situation in East Germany: question of German reunification) (Part 1) 1979 Oct 1 1989 Dec 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1823 Jordan (Visits to the UK by King Hussein) (Part 3) 1984 Dec 3 1986 Aug 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1480 European Policy (European Community Budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 30) 1985 Jun 6 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 401
PREM19/1145 Trade (Intellectual property rights and innovation) 1982 Jul 19 1983 Dec 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 228
PREM19/809 Industrial policy (European Commission ruling against Industry Act assistance to Hitachi Maxwell) 1982 Dec 15 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 6
PREM19/473 Ghana (Visit to UK by President Limann, May 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1980 Oct 21 1981 Jun 2 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 155
PREM19/2407 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Gerry Steinberg MP, 23 February 1988) 1987 Dec 14 1988 Mar 18 2016 Jul 21 Unclassified 27
PREM19/1864 National Health (Doctors' and dentists' pay; reports of Review Body) (Part 3) 1981 May 15 1986 May 29 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2539 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 3 1987 Apr 21 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1744 Environmental Affairs (World Conservation Strategy: 'Conservation and Development - the British Approach') 1980 Jun 25 1986 May 21 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1401 United Nations (Dinner for members of United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination, April 1984) 1983 Oct 17 1984 May 10 2014 Jan 3 Confidential 58
PREM19/1065 Industrial policy (Port of London Authority (PLA); five year plan; finances; closures; possible industrial action) 1979 Jun 7 1983 May 13 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 76
PREM19/728 Economic policy (Imposition of VAT on gold sovereigns) 1982 Mar 29 1982 Apr 21 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 16
PREM19/393 Brazil (Visit to UK by Foreign Minister, Ramiro Saraiva Guerreiro, December 1981: meeting with Prime Minister) 1981 Sep 9 1981 Dec 1 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 15

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