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
PREM19/3078 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 25) 1990 Aug 24 1990 Aug 29 Retained under Section 3.4
PREM19/2905 Agriculture (Salmonella and eggs) (Part 2) 1990 Apr 6 1990 Nov 23 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2080 Economic Policy (Budget) (Part 17) 1987 Oct 2 1988 Mar 31 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1247 Gibraltar (Policy) (Part 4) 1983 Jul 1 1984 Mar 20 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/912 Security ('Doomsday Minus Four' by Larry Clark) 1982 Jan 14 1982 Jan 15 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/3343 France ​​​​​​​(Internal situation)(Part 3) 1986 Oct 7 1991 Nov 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2592 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; Channel 4; community radio) (Part 3) 1988 May 3 1989 Dec 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2076 Downing Street (Organisation and function of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit: access to papers by members of the Policy Unit; relations with the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS)) (Part 1) 1979 May 8 1987 Feb 10 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2732 Hungary (Visits to the UK by Prime Ministers Karoly Grosz, (May 1988) and Miklos Nemeth (December 1989)) 1987 Jul 28 1989 Dec 15 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1847 Defence (Higher organisation for defence) 1984 Feb 24 1986 Oct 2 2016 Jul 21 5
PREM19/3489 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meeting with Dr Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, 7 February 1991) 1990 Aug 11 1991 Feb 7 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1911 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to South Korea and to Japan for Tokyo Economic Summit, May 1986: administrative arrangements) 1985 Dec 4 1986 Jul 14 2016 Feb 19 2
PREM19/2588 Australia (UK/Australian relations: internal situation) (Part 2) 1986 Jan 3 1989 Dec 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1768 Government Buildings (Edward Erdman Surveyors report on the redevelopment of the Bridge Street site) 1983 Feb 1 1986 Feb 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/3631 Civil Service Rules on the acceptance of business appointments by civil servants following resignation or retirement (Part 2) 1987 Jul 8 1991 Oct 17 2017 Dec 29

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