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
PREM19/3892 Prime Minister (Demise of a Prime Minister in office) 1989 Jan 31 1992 Oct 27 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2263 Information and Publicity (Status of transcripts of Prime Minister's press conferences: request from office of Neil Kinnock, Leader of the Opposition) 1988 Mar 14 1988 Mar 22 2015 Dec 30 Unclassified 6
PREM19/2983 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS): economic and monetary union) (Part 7) 1990 May 1 1990 Jun 27 2018 Jun 5 Secret 382
PREM19/2174 Foreign Policy (Future inward and outward State visits; visits by members of the Royal Family) 1985 Sep 1 1988 Aug 5 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1634 Security (Security Commission: review of security procedures; appointments; cases referred; 'Three Advisers' on appeals against positive vetting clearance refusals - terms of reference and procedures) 1981 Apr 1 1985 Sep 5 2014 Dec 30 Secret 253
PREM19/957 Argentina (Falkland Islands Review Committee (chaired by Lord Franks): documentation used by Prime Minister in preparation for 25-26 January 1983 debate in House of Commons on Committee's report) 1983 Jan 14 1983 Jan 26 2013 Aug 1 Secret 140
PREM19/4169 Government Buildings (Allocation of official residences) (Part 1) 1979 May 7 1993 May 28 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2893 Venezuela (Possible visit of the Venezuelan President-elect, Jaime Lusinchi: internal situation) 1983 Nov 28 1989 Sep 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2170 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 40) 1988 Oct 3 1989 Feb 27 2016 Jul 21 Confidential and Personal 269
PREM19/2827 Regional Policy (Inner city policy and problems: Urban Development Corporations; 'Action for Cities'; regeneration of London Docklands) (Part 15) 1988 Sep 6 1989 Jan 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2013 Afghanistan (Internal situation) (Part 7) 1986 May 8 1988 Mar 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1550 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish relations) (Part 9) 1985 Jul 1 1985 Sep 30 2014 Dec 30 Secret 333
PREM19/1214 Education (Secondary school education; management of local authority higher education; reform of Schools Council; raising standards in education; education in Liverpool; Green Paper on school government) (Part 2) 1982 Mar 24 1984 May 24 2014 Jan 3 Secret 259
PREM19/877 Posts and telecommunications (Future of the Post Office: telecommunications liberalisation and privatisation; Telecommunications Bill; System X) (Part 5) 1982 Jul 12 1982 Oct 21 2012 Dec 28 Secret 145
PREM19/541 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 4) 1981 Jul 22 1981 Nov 30 2011 Dec 30 Secret 284

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