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
PREM19/3003 Germany (Internal situation in the Federal Republic of Germany) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 13 1990 Mar 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2265 Iraq (Internal situation: Iran-Iraq War) (Part 5) 1984 Sep 1 1987 Jul 19 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/3235 Civil Service ​​​​​​​(Dispersal policy: transfer of government work to the regions)(Part 5) 1990 Mar 1 1991 Feb 28 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2867 Soviet Union (Visits to the UK by Soviet Deputy Prime Ministers: Leonid Konstandov, Vladimir Kamentsev and Aleksandra Biryukova) 1983 Sep 23 1989 Jul 26 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2048 Commonwealth (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Vancouver, October 1987) (Part 13) 1987 Nov 3 1987 Dec 9 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/1406 Yugoslavia (Visit to UK by Prime Minister Milka Planinc, November 1983: meeting with Prime Minister) 1982 Jun 30 1983 Nov 25 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3381 Home Affairs ​​​​​​​(Notting Hill Carnival) 1979 Aug 24 1991 Jul 22 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/2029 Broadcasting (Television licence fees; subscription television; independent television producers) (Part 4) 1987 Mar 17 1987 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2698 Germany (Visits to the UK by Governing Mayors of Berlin: Dietrich Stobb, Richard von Weizsacker, Eberhard Diepgen and Walter Momper) 1979 Mar 2 1989 May 4 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1326 Nationalised industries (Shipbuilding policy; prospects for British Shipbuilders) (Part 6) 1984 Jan 27 1984 May 30 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/3522 Science and Technology ​​​​​​​(Prime Minister's meetings with scientists, February 1982 and January 1991)​​​​​​​ 1982 Feb 1 1991 Feb 12 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1866 Nationalised Industries (Gas and electricity policy: British Gas privatisation; Gas Bill) (Part 12) 1985 Dec 1 1986 Sep 18 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2542 Soviet Union (UK/Soviet relations; internal situation) (Part 10) 1988 Jan 1 1988 Jun 29 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1747 European policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): reform of CAP; Green Pound; agricultural land and rural employment) (Part 14) 1986 Apr 17 1986 Nov 28 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1867 Nationalised Industries (Pay of Chairmen and Board members) (Part 3) 1984 Jun 1 1986 Apr 29 2016 Feb 19

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