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
PREM19/2752 Japan (Prime Minister's visit to Japan, September 1989) (Part 3b) 1989 Sep 18 1989 Nov 10 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2687 Foreign Policy (Correspondence with and about George Soros: economic proposals concerning the Soviet Union and Poland) 1987 Sep 3 1989 Sep 8 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 108
PREM19/2960 Education (Tuition fees for overseas students) 1980 Jun 4 1990 Aug 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2703 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 3) 1988 Mar 7 1989 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3193 Transport (London Regional Transport: Central London Rail Study) (Part 3) 1989 Apr 3 1990 Apr 19 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2646 Education (Nursery education of children under 5) 1979 Dec 6 1989 Apr 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3070 Manpower (Special employment measures: Prime Minister's seminar on training, 2 February 1990; future of the Skills Training Agency) (Part 23) 1990 Jan 23 1990 Feb 28 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2823 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Brussels for NATO Summit, December 1989: administrative arrangements) 1989 Nov 19 1989 Dec 5 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2987 European Policy (Visit to the UK by Jose Maria de Areilza, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, February 1982: possible visit by Catherine Lalumiere, Secretary General of the Council of Europe) 1981 Jul 15 1990 Feb 7 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 43
PREM19/2583 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 7) 1987 Feb 2 1989 Jun 12 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3003 Germany (Internal situation in the Federal Republic of Germany) (Part 3) 1986 Jun 13 1990 Mar 2 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2708 Government Machinery (Rayner Scrutiny programme: promotion of efficiency and elimination of waste; value for money seminars; Next Steps initiative) (Part 31) 1989 Jul 3 1989 Oct 30 2016 Dec 30 Confidential 384
PREM19/2961 El Salvador (Internal situation: UK/El Salvador relations) (Part 1) 1981 Dec 1 1990 Jan 22 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2580 Economic Policy (Public spending) (Part 40) 1988 Jul 5 1988 Dec 13 2016 Dec 30 Secret 361
PREM19/2704 Government Machinery (Monopolies and mergers) (Part 4) 1989 Mar 8 1989 Jul 21 2016 Dec 30

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