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
PREM19/2465 Regional Policy (Inner Cities Initiative: launch by Prime Minister of 'Action for Cities'; function of Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster as Minister coordinating inner city policy; review of Cabinet Office Unit under Eric Sorensen) (Part 13) 1988 Mar 1 1988 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1376 Security (Proposed book by Vernon Newton on Donald Maclean's espionage activities) 1984 May 14 1984 May 21 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/1983 Trade (Government purchasing policy and the 'Buy British' policy; Prime Minister's 'Better Made in Britain' seminar, 25 February 1986) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 3 1986 Mar 20 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2654 Environmental Affairs (Environmental policy: environmental pollution: climate change; London Conference on Saving the Ozone Layer, March 1989) (Part 8) 1989 Mar 1 1989 Mar 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3116 Prime Minister ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meeting with Gerald Carroll, Chairman of the Carroll Group, 22 January 1990) 1989 Nov 8 1990 Oct 1 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3699 Egypt (Visits to the UK by President Mubarak and the Egyptian Foreign Minister) (Part 2) 1986 Jul 14 1992 Dec 31 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/2378 Parliament (Legislative programme) (Part 16) 1987 Feb 2 1987 Oct 29 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1297 Lebanon (Internal situation; Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon; UK/Lebanese relations) (Part 6) 1983 Dec 30 1984 Feb 27 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/364 Security (Policy on interception) (Part 2) 1980 Mar 21 1980 Apr 11 Retained Unknown
PREM19/2510 Security (Security of the Secret Services: Chapman Pincher's book 'Their Trade is Treachery'; Peter Wright case) (Part 11) 1988 Apr 7 1988 Sep 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/3268 East Timor ​​​​​​​(Situation in East Timor) 1982 Nov 5 1991 Nov 11 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3872 Pakistan (Visit to the UK by President Zia-ul-Haq) 1980 Sep 1 1992 May 25 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2994 Foreign Policy (Prime Minister's visits to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Switzerland, 16-23 September 1990) 1990 Aug 17 1990 Oct 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2216 Home Affairs (Assaults on children: inquiry into child abuse and attached report on child abuse in Cleveland; activities of the Paedophile International Exchange) (Part 1) 1983 Sep 1 1988 Sep 5 Retained Retained Sec 3.4
PREM19/4201 Home Affairs (Firearms amnesty: review of firearms) 1987 Jul 1 1993 Sep 17 2018 Jul 24

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