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 releasesort descending Any docs withheld? File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/3020 Home Affairs (Sentencing policy: Criminal Justice Bill) (Part 4) 1990 Jan 12 1990 Sep 30 2016 Dec 30 1 Confidential 163
PREM19/2599 Civil Service (Pay and pensions: pay dispute and strike) (Part 17) 1987 Apr 2 1989 Jan 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3015 Government Machinery (The Inland Revenue) 1986 Jun 9 1990 Jul 27 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2763 Local Government (Future of the rating system: rating revaluation; Community Charge) (Part 12) 1989 Jan 6 1989 May 31 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2786 Nationalised Industries (Nationalised industries pay) 1980 Sep 4 1989 May 16 2016 Dec 30 Secret 131
PREM19/2971 Environmental Affairs (World Commission on Environment and Development: Bergen Conference 'Action for a Common Future', May 1990) 1988 Jul 5 1990 Feb 14 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2592 Broadcasting (Legislation on broadcasting; Channel 4; community radio) (Part 3) 1988 May 3 1989 Dec 21 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2717 Home Affairs (Data protection: computer hacking) (Part 2) 1987 Oct 12 1989 May 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3213 Prime Minister (Resignation of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister) 1990 Nov 20 1991 Nov 11 2016 Dec 30 2 Secret 215
PREM19/2908 Arts and Amenities (Future of the British Library: Prime Minister's meetings with Lord Trend and Sir Frederick Dainton and Minister for the Arts, Richard Luce) 1979 Aug 21 1990 May 11 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2910 Australia (Visits to the UK by Australian Foreign Ministers: Anthony Street, William Hayden and Gareth Evans) 1981 Feb 16 1990 Dec 10 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2664 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 43) 1989 Oct 2 1989 Nov 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3110 Parliament (Parliamentary scrutiny of European Community legislation: UK representation in European Community institutions; House of Commons links with the European Community) 1980 May 7 1990 Oct 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2849 Security (Leak to The Observer relating to Westland plc) 1985 Dec 24 1989 Jun 16 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3025 Home Affairs (Policy towards the Prison Service: Working Group on Disruption in the Prison Service; private sector involvement in the remand system) (Part 5) 1989 Feb 2 1990 Mar 20 2016 Dec 30 6 Secret 176

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