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
PREM19/3145 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's visit to the second World Climate Conference, Geneva, November 1990: administrative arrangements) 1990 Oct 4 1990 Nov 26 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3760 Foreign Policy (East/West relations) (Part 12) 1990 Aug 7 1992 Apr 29 2017 Dec 29
PREM19/3187 St Lucia (UK/St Lucia relations: internal situation) (Part 1) 1979 Jun 29 1990 Oct 29 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2493 Security (Links between Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and other terrorist organisations: People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine operations in London) 1979 Sep 28 1988 Mar 17 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1364 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with delegation of West German industrialists, April 1984) 1982 Sep 16 1984 Jan 24 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3307 Ethiopia ​​​​​​​(Internal situation: relations with UK)(Part 1) 1982 Dec 1 1991 Oct 31 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3931 Saudi Arabia (Visits to the UK by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal)​​​​​​​(Part 16) 1982 Jun 7 1992 Aug 3 Temporarily Retained by Department
PREM19/2973 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 19) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2136 Energy (Energy policy: nuclear power; revision of report by Advisory Council on Science and Technology (ACOST) on industrial impact of Sizewell 'B' decision; extension of Joint European Torus (JET) project on nuclear fusion; disposal of UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) shareholding in National Nuclear Corporation; fast reactor programme) (Part 12) 1987 Dec 1 1988 May 24 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1625 Security (Policy on interception: legislation) (Part 4) 1975 Oct 31 1985 Jan 31 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1285 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 15) 1984 Jan 6 1984 Mar 30 2014 Jan 3 4
PREM19/4092 Economic Policy (VAT zero rates: infraction proceedings; European Court of Justice judgment) (Part 2) 1989 Mar 1 1993 Nov 4 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3437 Manpower ​​​​​​​(Special employment measures: measures to tackle rising unemployment; Employment Training and special needs; youth training)(Part 25) 1990 Nov 1 1991 Sep 30 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2796 Parliament (Boundary Commission reviews of Parliamentary constituencies in Wales and the UK) (Part 2) 1986 Jul 11 1989 Jan 18 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1972 South Korea (Prime Minister's visit to South Korea, May 1986) 1982 Mar 29 1986 May 16 2016 Jul 21 1

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