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? File classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/2566 USA (Prime Minister's visit to Washington, July 1987) (Part 1) 1987 Jun 12 1987 Jul 23 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1756 European Policy (European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): impact of European Court of Human Rights findings on UK domestic law) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 12 1986 May 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4621 Downing Street (Information technology) (Part 4) 1986 Jul 18 1994 Nov 8 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3809 Industrial Policy (Microelectronics industry: Inmos Ltd (INMOS)) (Part 3) 1984 Apr 20 1992 Dec 7 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2359 Nationalised Industries (Shipbuilding policy) (Part 14) 1988 Apr 5 1988 Sep 30 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/1676 Belize (Dispute with Guatemala) (Part 2) 1982 May 5 1983 Feb 28 2024 Jan 1
PREM19/660 Argentina (Falklands) 1982 Apr 8 1982 Apr 12 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2920 Canada (UK/Canadian relations) (Part 6) 1985 Sep 5 1990 Jun 25 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2741 Industrial Policy (Short Brothers Plc: corporate plan and privatisation prospects) (Part 2) 1986 Jun 13 1989 Mar 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1856 National Health (Private Medical Care) 1979 May 22 1986 Feb 17 2015 Dec 30
PREM19/2921 China (Sino-Soviet relations: visits by Edward Heath MP) 1979 May 15 1990 Jan 15 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1917 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Israel, May 1986: administrative arrangements) 1986 Feb 4 1986 Dec 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2597 China (Internal situation in China) (Part 1) 1979 May 30 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1772 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; White Paper on deregulation) (Part 20) 1985 Dec 1 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4584 Cameroon (UK/Cameroon relations) (Part 2) 1988 Apr 11 1994 Nov 18 2018 Dec 28

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