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 Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/2908 Arts and Amenities (Future of the British Library: Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Trend and Sir Frederick Dainton and Minister for the Arts, Richard Luce) 1979 Aug 21 1990 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2909 Arts and Amenities (Policy towards the arts: private sponsorship of the arts; Wilding Report 'Supporting the Arts') (Part 3) 1987 Jul 31 1990 Apr 10 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2910 Australia (Visits to the UK by Australian Foreign Ministers: Anthony Street, William Hayden and Gareth Evans) 1981 Feb 16 1990 Dec 10 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2911 Austria (UK/Austrian relations: internal situation; Waldheim Report) 1981 Dec 24 1990 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2912 Bangladesh (Visit to UK by General Ershad, Chief Martial Law Administrator, June 1982: visit by President Ershad, February 1989; Prime Minister's meeting with Foreign Minister, Anisul Islam Mahmud, June 1990) 1982 Jun 7 1990 Oct 23 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2913 Bermuda (Prime Minister's visit to Bermuda, April 1990: meeting with George H W Bush, President of the USA) (Part 1) 1990 Apr 4 1990 Aug 17 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2915 Brazil (Proposed visit to UK by President of Brazil, General Joao Figueiredo; visit of the President-elect, Fernando Collor de Mello, February 1990) 1981 Nov 9 1990 May 24 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2916 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite: satellite television; Sky Television) (Part 7) 1988 Jul 1 1990 Nov 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2917 Broadcasting (Television licence fees: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 10) 1989 Nov 1 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2918 Broadcasting (Broadcasting policy: Broadcasting Bill) (Part 11) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2919 Cabinet (Cabinet Committee structure and membership) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 19 1990 Jul 20 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2920 Canada (UK/Canadian relations) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 5 1990 Jun 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2921 China (Sino-Soviet relations: visits by Edward Heath MP) 1979 May 15 1990 Jan 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2922 Civil Service (Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions) (Part 4) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2924 Civil Service (Proposal by Anne Sloman and Hugo Young of Radio 4 for a radio series on the Treasury: proposed series by the BBC on 'Pillars of State') 1982 Nov 30 1990 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30 Unclassified 21

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