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 ascending Link to selections
PREM19/2849 Security (Leak to The Observer relating to Westland plc) 1985 Dec 24 1989 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2740 Industrial Policy​​​​​​​ (Ports: abolition of the National Dock Labour Scheme; industrial action in the ports) (Part 15) 1989 Mar 2 1989 May 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3549 Soviet Union ​​​​​​​(Trade relations: controls on strategic exports)​​​​​​​ (Part 4) 1986 Dec 1 1991 Jan 28 Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2071 Defence (Procurement of weapon systems: European Fighter Aircraft (EFA); Chieftain tank replacement;) (Part 6) 1988 Apr 1 1988 Oct 26 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2023 Broadcasting (Direct broadcasting by satellite; cable systems and their effect on broadcasting policy) (Part 6) 1986 Mar 6 1988 Jun 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2689 Foreign Policy (Policy towards bilateral summits) 1988 Mar 28 1989 Apr 18 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
PREM19/3093 National Health ​​​​​​​(Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): implementation of NHS reforms) (Part 23) 1989 Nov 1 1990 Mar 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3658 Disasters (Thames riverboat disaster: sinking of the Marchioness, 20 August 1989) 1989 Aug 20 1992 Jul 3 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1854 National Health (Expenditure and efficiency in the National Health Service (NHS): NHS Management Board) (Part 6) 1986 Jun 2 1986 Sep 30 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/3245 Commonwealth ​​​​​​​(Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 1993 and the UK's bid to host it) 1989 Apr 3 1991 Jul 24 2017 Jul 20
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
PREM19/3843 Local Government (Pay of water industry workers and local authority manual workers: West Glamorgan Fire Brigade industrial dispute)​​​​​​​ (Part 4) 1983 May 3 1992 Nov 27 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/1760 France (Prime Minister's meeting with French Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius) (Part 3) 1985 Jul 4 1986 Oct 23 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/2304 Local Government (Future of the rating system; rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 5) 1986 Sep 2 1987 Jan 30 2016 Feb 19

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