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
PREM19/1452 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 31) 1984 Dec 17 1985 Apr 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3571 Trade ​​​​​​​(Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD): review of the status of the ECGD; privatisation of Insurance Services Group)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) 1989 Dec 11 1990 Dec 27 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3204 USA (Prime Minister's correspondence and meetings with Congressman Jack Kemp) 1979 Nov 19 1990 Jul 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2501 Security (White Paper on Reform of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911: proposed Protection of Official Information Bill; enforcing the duty of confidentiality) (Part 2) 1987 Nov 3 1988 Jul 19 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1715 Economic policy (G7 Summit - Tokyo) (Part 21) 1985 Apr 30 1986 May 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1372 Security (Irish terrorist activity in Great Britain; threat to Weston supermarkets) (Part 1B) 1982 Sep 6 1984 Feb 10 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3912 Qatar Visits to the UK by the Amir of Qatar (Part 2) 1990 Feb 1 1992 Feb 10 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2980 European Policy (Special European Council meeting, Dublin, April 1990; European Council meeting, Dublin, June 1990) (Part 36A) 1990 Feb 16 1990 Jul 13 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2160 European Policy (European Council meeting, Hanover, June 1988) (Part 29) 1988 Apr 1 1988 Jun 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1293 Ireland (Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland) (Part 6) 1981 Sep 1 1984 Mar 5 2014 Jan 3 3
PREM19/3260 Defence ​​​​​​​(Anglo-French nuclear collaboration)(Part 1) 1979 May 31 1991 Apr 13 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2816 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Paris to attend the Economic Summit, July 1989: administrative arrangements) 1988 May 31 1989 Aug 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2011 Aerospace (Space policy) (Part 2) 1986 Feb 4 1987 May 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/3403 Ireland ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach: Anglo-Irish Summits; Anglo-Irish relations)(Part 21) 1990 Apr 6 1991 Jul 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1990 Transport (London Regional Transport) (Part 1) 1983 Nov 3 1986 Nov 27 2016 Feb 19

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