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
PREM19/3634 Colombia (Internal situation: UK/Colombia relations) (Part 1) 1982 Mar 1 1992 Sep 30 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/1129 Security (Publication of book containing accounts of National Security Agency) 1982 Mar 14 1983 May 5 Retained Sec 3.4 Unknown
PREM19/3790 Home Affairs (Report of inspectors appointed under section 432(2) of the Companies Act 1985 to investigate the affairs of House of Fraser Holdings plc)​​ (Part 6) 1990 Mar 2 1992 Jan 8 2030 Jan 1
PREM19/3114 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's speech at Conrad Black dinner, 21 June 1988, and meeting with Conrad Black and the Board of Hollinger, 6 September 1989) 1988 Jun 21 1990 Apr 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2469 Royal Family (Procedures for members of the Royal Family taking up jobs and other commercial appointments) 1988 Dec 7 1988 Dec 7 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/1384 Security (South African diplomat accused of spying for Russia) 1983 Jan 19 1984 Jan 23 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1048 Grenada (US-led invasion) (Part 1) 1983 Mar 29 1983 Oct 27 2013 Aug 1 13 Top Secret
PREM19/3218 Australia ​​​​​​​(Visit of the Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, to London, June 1989)(Part 2) 1988 Aug 30 1991 May 29 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3970 United Nations (International Year of the Child 1979: World Summit for Children, September 1990) 1979 May 25 1992 Feb 14 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2950 Economic Policy (Review of policy on film finance: Prime Minister's seminar for the British Film Industry, 15 June 1990) (Part 2) 1990 Mar 16 1990 Jun 18 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2106 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 39) 1987 Aug 5 1988 Jun 30 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1304 Local government (Relations with central government, organisation & finance) (Part 19) 1984 Jan 16 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3357 Government Buildings ​​​​​​​(Proposal from Professor Randolph Quirk for University of London to move into Somerset House: relocation of government offices from Somerset House; relocation to London Docklands)(Part 1) 1982 Jun 1 1991 Jun 21 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/967 Civil service (Long-term management and manpower policy; policy on Civil Service numbers, Financial Management Initiative; response to Select Committee report on efficiency and effectiveness in Civil Service; the extension of unified grading; obligations of managers) (Part 12) 1982 Dec 2 1983 May 24 2013 Aug 1
PREM19/2656 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; Prime Minister's seminar on the global climate, April 1989) (Part 10) 1989 Apr 21 1989 May 26 2016 Dec 30

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