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
PREM19/2719 Home Affairs (Lead in the environment: reports of the Lawther Working Party (1980) and Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (1983)) 1980 Mar 20 1989 Feb 8 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1840 Manpower (Employment policy: employment measures; review of employment policies) (Part 14) 1986 May 2 1986 Oct 29 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1251 Government machinery (Promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste: the Scrutiny Programme) (Part 15) 1984 Mar 1 1984 Jul 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3507 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to Washington, December 1990; administrative arrangements) 1990 Nov 27 1990 Dec 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1902 Prime Minister (Meeting with Neville Trotter MP about Swan Hunter shipyard) 1986 Feb 27 1986 Mar 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2572 Yemen (Internal situation in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY): evacuation of British subjects and others) 1980 Apr 22 1988 Oct 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1761 France (Internal situation) (Part 2) 1982 Feb 5 1986 Sep 24 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3691 Economic Policy Reports of the Pay Review Bodies: review of the Office of Manpower Economics (OME)(Part 11) 1990 Feb 1 1992 Jan 24 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3071 Manpower (Special employment measures: training policy; pilot schemes of training credits for young people) (Part 24) 1990 Mar 1 1990 Oct 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2391 Posts and Telecommunications (Future of the Post Office; Sale of the Government's Cable and Wireless shares; British Telecom (BT) and National Girobank) (Part 10) 1985 Aug 1 1987 Sep 18 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1681 Canada (Prime Minister's Visit to Canada, July 1986: Vancouver Transportation Exposition 1986 (Expo 86)) 1981 Jul 8 1986 Sep 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3989 Yugoslavia (Internal situation: UK/Yugoslavia relations)(Part 2) 1988 Oct 21 1991 Oct 31 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2932 Defence (Future UK defence policy) (Part 4) 1989 Apr 11 1990 Jul 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2096 Economic Policy (Public sector pensions; Scott Report on the Value of Pensions) (Part 4) 1982 Jun 4 1988 Jun 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1349 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Jing Shuping, President of China International Economic Consultants (CIEC), November 1984) 1984 Oct 11 1984 Nov 13 2014 Jan 3

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