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
PREM19/1968 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 11) 1986 Jul 1 1986 Jul 15 2016 Feb 19 3
PREM19/2641 Economic Policy (G7 Summit - Paris, July 1989) (Part 29) 1989 Aug 1 1989 Sep 4 2019 Apr 16
PREM19/4329 NATO (NATO policy) (Part 2) 1990 Apr 10 1993 Oct 12 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2502 Security (Security and protection of the Prime Minister) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 3 1987 Jan 26 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/4848 Nepal (UK/Nepal relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1981 Jun 19 1994 Dec 21 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3893 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meetings with the Cabinet Secretary) (Part 1) 1984 Sep 1 1992 Mar 9 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1633 Security (Soviet funding of National Union of Mineworkers (NUM): information from Sir Bernard Braine MP) 1984 Oct 10 1985 Mar 6 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4152 Foreign Policy (Strategy on foreign policy and defence issues) (Part 5) 1990 Feb 5 1993 Feb 22 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/2875 Sri Lanka (UK/Sri Lanka relations: aid to Sri Lanka; internal situation) (Part 3) 1986 Mar 3 1989 Sep 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2823 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Brussels for NATO Summit, December 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Nov 19 1989 Dec 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2012 Aerospace (Space policy) (Part 3) 1987 Jul 14 1988 Nov 22 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1995 United Nations (Visits to UK by UN Secretary-General, Javier Perez de Cuellar; question of his successor) (Part 2) 1982 May 7 1986 Nov 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2672 European Policy (Meeting of European Community leaders to discuss the situation in Eastern Europe, Paris, 18 November 1989) 1989 Nov 13 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1571 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 13) 1985 Jun 2 1985 Sep 3 Temporarily retained
PREM19/2524 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK) (Part 14) 1986 Dec 9 1987 Aug 28 Retained Temporarily retained by Department

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