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 Pagessort descending Link to selections
PREM19/4093 Economic Policy (Covenanted charitable donations by close companies: taxation of charities) (Part 2) 1989 Dec 21 1993 Oct 19 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3436 Mauritius ​​​(UK/Mauritius relations) (Part 1) 1982 Jun 1 1991 Oct 10 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2010 Aerospace (European Airbus) (Part 2) 1986 Mar 18 1987 Nov 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3835 Japan (Visits to the UK by Japanese Ministers for International Trade and Industry​​​​​​​) 1979 May 8 1992 Dec 24 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2310 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 11) 1988 Aug 3 1988 Dec 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3038 Industrial Policy (Dispute between the National Graphical Association and the Stockport Messenger Group: print unions dispute at Wapping) 1983 Nov 26 1990 Feb 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2282 Japan (internal situation: economic reports; changes of Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Nov 13 1986 Oct 1 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2799 Poland (UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance) (Part 11) 1989 Sep 1 1989 Dec 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3579 Treasury ​​​​​​​(Barlow Clowes)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Nov 16 1991 Dec 19 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1809 Ireland (Meetings with the Taoiseach) (Part 12) 1985 Nov 15 1985 Nov 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3074 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 21) 1990 Aug 2 1990 Aug 6 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/2899 Aerospace (Review of Scottish lowland airports policy) 1984 Jul 6 1990 Mar 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3116 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meeting with Gerald Carroll, Chairman of the Carroll Group, 22 January 1990) 1989 Nov 8 1990 Oct 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1730 Education (Teachers' pay) (Part 6) 1986 Jan 6 1986 Mar 26 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2584 Agricultural (Agricultural Wages Board) 1983 Mar 28 1989 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30

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