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
PREM19/2894 Vietnam (Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong; resettlement in the UK) (Part 4) 1981 Mar 3 1989 Jun 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2069 Defence (Nuclear release procedures) (Part 4) 1983 Mar 1 1987 Oct 30 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3366 Government Machinery ​​​​​​​(Correspondence from Members of Parliament (MPs))(Part 1) 1979 Jun 19 1991 Jun 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2717 Home Affairs (Data protection: computer hacking) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 12 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2718 Home Affairs (Government support for voluntary bodies) (Part 1) 1985 Mar 11 1989 Jul 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1839 Mapower (Employment policy: enterprise and employment measures; feasibility study of a 'Workfare' scheme to replace long term unemployment in UK) (Part 3) 1985 Aug 5 1986 May 30 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1339 Parliament (House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology: scientific advice to government; engineering research and development) 1979 Nov 12 1984 Oct 16 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3508 Poland ​​​​​​​(UK/Polish relations: internal situation; economic assistance)(Part 12) 1990 Jan 2 1991 May 13 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1901 Prime Minister (Tam Dalyell's motion on conduct of Prime Minister) 1986 Jun 4 1986 Jun 5 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2571 USA (Visits to UK by Ambassador Paul Nitze, United States Special Adviser on Arms Control) 1983 Jun 28 1987 Feb 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1760 France (Prime Minister's meeting with French Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 4 1986 Oct 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1257 Government machinery (Transfer of responsibility for Office of the Lord Lyon from Treasury to Secretary of State for Scotland) 1984 Dec 12 1984 Dec 17 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/586 Security (Case of Howard Marks) 1979 Jul 4 1981 Nov 24 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/3760 Foreign Policy East/West relations (Part 12) 1990 Aug 7 1992 Apr 29 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3070 Manpower (Special employment measures: Prime Minister's seminar on training, 2 February 1990; future of the Skills Training Agency) (Part 23) 1990 Jan 23 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30

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